Movie Review: The Meddler

Occasionally, when watching a movie, I get a feeling of uneasiness, which is usually due to one of several things.

a) The characters are doing/saying something that is disturbing/thought provoking, etc.

b) I see an actor, and try as I might, I can’t place him or her.

c) I’ve seen a movie with a similar plot.

It took only five minutes into “The Meddler,” for me to get strong deja vu. In it, Susan Sarandon plays a widow/single mom, who moves to Los Angeles (which she loves) in order to be close to her adult daughter (Rose Byrne), a television scriptwriter. Susan clearly loves her daughter, but she is definitely a smotherer who is too close, even to the point of going to see her daughter’s therapist. Surprisingly, Rose, who has just broken up with a longtime boyfriend, does not appreciate her mother’s aid and sunny worldview and is trying to separate and live her own life.

This is also the plot of the movie “Anywhere But Here,” which starred Susan Sarandon as a newly single mom, who packs up and moves to L.A. (her longtime dream destination) with her teen daughter (Natalie Portman), who she hopes will become an actress. Susan obviously loves her daughter, but may be possibly bipolar or just overly optimistic, which Natalie does not appreciate either, as she attempts to separate and become her own person.

In fact, both daughters seize the opportunity to put lots of distance between them and mom when they get the chance. Natalie’s character applies to Brown University, and Rose winds up traveling back to the East Coast to shoot a TV pilot. In the meantime, in “The Meddler,” Susan busies herself meddling with other people’s lives, but with happier results, including a nice Apple Store salesman (Jerrod Carmichael, who also plays his brother), and a gay friend of her daughter’s (Casey Wilson) whose dream wedding Susan finances.

Susan also (deja vu all over again) meets a man, an ex-cop who raises chickens (J.K. Simmons), but has to return back to her previous home because of funeral arrangements, involving her husband, who she has not yet gotten over and keeps making excuses to avoid dealing with such matters as who gets to keep the ashes. While she there, she’s waiting for J.K. to call, and has much better luck than her character did pursuing a guy in “Anywhere But Here.” Eventually, she will have to learn not to meddle so much – at least, I assume that’s what the character arc is supposed to be, but the movie ends with not a great deal of change on Susan’s part (or her daughter’s). There is some change and maturation, but only if you squint and peer real close. None of Susan’s schemes really blow up in her face and cause lasting damage, which is what I kept expecting to happen. So the movie is very sweet and may make you teary eyed in places (if you’re a sentimental sort), but it’s not particularly memorable.

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