While writer/director Lorene Scafaria may have based this dramedy on her own overbearing mother, she misses far too many many chances for inspiration and insight. Recently widowed Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon), a Brooklyn native, has moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be near her 30-something daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), a perplexed, perpetually pouting TV writer who was recently dumped by her boyfriend Jason (Jason Ritter). Read on…
Marnie is well-off financially and she loves her new apartment, conveniently situated near The Grove, which she aptly compares to Disneyland’s Main Street. But she’s lonely. So she calls and texts Lori incessantly – until Lori says, “I think it’s time we set some boundaries.”
Undaunted, good-hearted Marnie starts befriending strangers – like the ambitious lad (Jerrod Carmichael) at the Apple Store, Lori’s pal (Cecily Strong) who yearns for an elaborate lesbian wedding, and a retired cop (J.K. Simmons) whom she meets when she inadvertently strolls into the filming of a movie scene.
If Lorene Scafaria had made this into a sitcom, it might have worked better because it’s far too shallow and contrived to work as a feature film.
Susan Sarandon is Scafaria’s saving-grace. Her Marnie is so kind, loving and generous that it’s difficult not to succumb to her maternal charm. On the other hand Rose Bryne’s weepy Lori is so self-absorbed that it’s hard to elicit any sympathy for her trials and tribulations.
In supporting roles, J.K. Simmons seems to be channeling Sam Elliott, while Amy Landecker’s therapist emerges as simply annoying.
Curiously, the most effective scene is when Marnie is alone in her kitchen. Using the rim of a glass, she presses a hole in the center of a slice of bread. Placing it in a heated skillet, she cracks a farm-fresh egg into the center of the hole, cooks the egg to perfection and then slowly, lasciviously consumes it.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Meddler” is an intrusive 4, totally lacking in empathetic spontaneity.