Know that person who has a heart of gold but lacks a silver tongue? Or has valuable wisdom but tends to share too much information? Who would be the greatest conversationalist in the world if they could just cut themselves off one sentence earlier?
That would be Susan Sarandon’s Marnie Minervini in “The Meddler,” though the beauty of her performance is that the character rings broadly true for so many people. For plenty, it will probably recall their mother or other family member. The meat of the film does focus on Marnie’s relationship with her adult daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), still a bit of a hot mess professionally and romantically. Marnie tries to intervene, as most mothers do, but Lori gives an unsubtle hint for her newly widowed parent to find a different hobby.
Rather than mope, whine or cause unnecessary tension between the two of them, Marnie essentially takes her charge. For decades, she played few roles besides “mother” and “wife.” This free time grants her the opportunity to be a friend, a surrogate parent, a mentor … and maybe even a lover. There’s certainly not a dull moment with Marnie, though sometimes the organization of her interactions leaves a little to be desired. Some secondary characters play pivotal roles only to drop off for big chunks of the movie.
Marnie’s adventures in role playing provide irresistible fun and joy, though they are always tainted with a slight sadness. These all serve as convenient distractions from the one person who really needs tending to: herself. Scafaria, in one of few script-level missteps, delivers this revelation through on-the-nose observations by Marnie’s therapists. But as it plays out in the events of “The Meddler,” her journey of self-discovery through (some perhaps unwarranted) service is altogether charming. B+ /