Sunday, September 4, 2016

Video review: "The Meddler"

“The Meddler” is one of those little indie movies that are perfect for video. They tend not to get released in smaller cities, and even then it can be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it run at the one art cinema in town. A delightful comedy with some hefty messages underneath the laughs, it treats its characters as realistic people who might exist in the world with their own peculiar virtues and faults.

The foibles of Marnie (Susan Sarandon) are pretty evident. A wealthy widow from Jersey without a lot to do, she moves out to Los Angeles to be near her daughter (Rose Byrne), a successful television writer who’s unlucky in love. Marnie is a born smotherer who repeatedly crosses boundaries -- dropping hints about grandchildren, etc. Soon enough the kid has (gently) elbowed Marnie out of the picture.

But, in her own passive-aggressive way, Marnie is unstoppable. Soon she’s co-opted her daughter’s circle of friends into becoming her own, lavishing one with an expensive wedding party. She keeps dropping by the Apple store to buy more overpriced junk she doesn’t need, and soon she’s driving a young worker there to college classes she encouraged him to take.

Marnie is a true giver -- even when the recipient can’t take anymore.

She strikes up a halting romance with Zipper, a twangy cop/farmer played with a twinkle by J.K. Simmons. He spots her on the set of a movie where he’s working security -- Marnie just walked by one day and became an extra -- and pitches some woo. Marnie, long used to being the interloper in other people’s lives instead of the one who gets loped, isn’t quite sure what to make of the creased Casanova at first.

Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, “The Meddler” is a movie that doesn’t have a lot of story to it. It’s just people intersecting, rubbing off each other, finding connections that weren’t there before. The movie takes a woman who at first seems ridiculous and even a little pathetic and lets us see her intricate humanity. It’s funny, and enlightening.

Bonus features are good, and are the same for DVD and Blu-ray editions.

There is a gag reel and two featurettes: “The ‘Real’ Marnie” and “The Making of The Meddler.” The centerpiece is a feature-length commentary track with both Scafaria and Sarandon. I really enjoy it when the filmmakers and stars participate in these together, so it’s more of a dialogue than one person droning on.



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