The marketing for writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s movie—and even the title, for that matter—suggests a story focused on the contentious relationship between widowed mom Marnie (Susan Sarandon) and her adult daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), after Marnie re-locates from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her. But surprisingly little of the story actually revolves around that relationship, as Scafaria focuses instead on Marnie’s complicated road towards processing finally processing her grief, including a tentative relationship with a retired cop-turned-movie set security (a delightfully low-key J. K. Simmons). And while it’s always a shame when Byrne is in a movie yet in not nearly enough of that movie, Sarandon delivers a rich, heartbreaking performance as a woman who keeps searching for a place to put her need to be needed. It’s unfortunate that Scafaria gives in to the tired trope of building a scene around someone over the age of 50 getting stoned, especially when Sarandon is so good while Marnie is repressing her feelings. The Meddler is less about the tension between a mother and a daughter than about the tension between that mother and herself.
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