The Meddler stars, in the titular role, Susan Sarandon, known best to me for her role in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. as Cecilia Monroe, the Days of our Lives star, who Joey dates briefly and who is best known for her b****slaps across the face on the soap opera. In “The Meddler”, she plays Marnie Minervini, a widow and mother of a Hollywood television show writer, Lori.
When the movie begins, Marnie has recently moved to LA to be closer to her daughter after her husband’s passin. She has a small fortune left to her by her dead husband and literally nothing to do to fill, in her own words, “the many hours of the day”. In fact, the movie begins with what seems to be a long journal entry about all the banal details of her day, which, hilariously, turns out to be a rather long and rambling voice mail message she just left for her daughter.
The daughter, who is dealing with the loss of her father and a recent break up in her own way, has no patience to become her mother’s pass-time and insists (to no avail) that she needs her own space. At one point, Lori even tells Marnie that her therapist says she needs to set boundaries with her mother to retain sanity in her life. Marnie promptly responds by booking an appointment with the therapist in the hopes of finding out more about her daughter’s personal life, failing to see the irony of breaking said boundaries in the process.
When Lori skips town to shoot the pilot of the show she is writing (and only partly to put a continent between her mother and herself), Marnie is forced to face life without the crutch of having her daughter live in the same town. She starts by befriending random people like Lori’s friends and the Apple Genius Bar guy and a random old lady in a hospital, all of whom are floored by her kind heart and loose wallet strings. (Who does not love being mothered? Maybe only those who are fortunate enough to have a mother.)
Her random acts of kindness, unsolicited advice and unabashed motherliness win her many admirers and lead to new experiences in her hitherto empty life. Even though her grief for her husband is always around the corner (as is the nature of grief) she finds joy in feeling wanted by the recipients of her benevolence. It is both beautiful and heartbreaking at once to see Marnie smile and laugh with the ghost of her past always visible in her vulnerable eyes. Susan Sarandon is a brilliant artist and a master at making a smiling face that looks like it could break down any second.
By the time Lori comes back to LA, she finds that her emotionally dependent mother has not only found new friends, but new purpose and possibly, new love. And while the strain of their shared loss is always visible on their relationship, there are moments between the mother and daughter that show the truly uncomplicated closeness shared by the two.
A memorable scene about a pregnancy scare turns fast from shock to relief to horror to a shared laughing fit, which leads to the only time Lori is seen to drop her tough facade and be truly honest with her mother about their relationship. She says, “It is difficult to watch you sometimes. It feels like half the room is missing.” The writer of this dialogue has either experienced deep personal loss or deserves an Oscar for their sheer capacity for empathy.
The movie, in a nutshell, is about Marnie’s journey. From leading a purposeless directionless life soaked in grief and trying to fill the emptiness by meddling in her unwilling daughter’s affairs, to becoming a woman open to new experiences, adventures and new purpose – getting love by spreading love.
Poignantly, the movie ends where it begins – with another banal overlong rambling voicemail message from Marnie to Lori about all the (now less boring) details of her day. As if to say, moms will be moms. And bless them for that!
Beautiful movie for anyone who has ever loved anyone (Not to mention, fellow JK Simmons lovers.)
And for everyone with a mother they fight with, annoy and get annoyed with, and absolutely love to bits.
Available on Netflix India.