Susan Sarandon has been playing mom for years. Stepmom, Tammy, Speed Racer, even the half-baked About Ray, click here to see Sarah's review, it’s not something she shies away from… and it’s something she embraces in The Meddler, the most well-rounded and true-to-life mother figure she’s ever played.
I sat down with Susan and her writer-director Lorene Scafaria to chat about The Meddler at TIFF. Susan told me that as far back as 1978, for Pretty Baby, she was warned against playing mothers on the big screen because she may damage her perceived sex appeal. She never listened to that advice, because she never needed to. When you meet Susan, you encounter the same “it” as when you see her on the big screen, and she oozes sex.
That’s true in The Meddler, too… but in a different way. Her Jersey-based character Marnie is an uber-confident widow who moves to LA to be closer to her writer-actor daughter, Lori, played by Rose Byrne. Lori can’t get over her ex (Jason Ritter), and Marnie can’t stop sharing every thought she has with her daughter. There’s a new Beyonce song on the radio? Time to leave a voicemail. There’s a smart Apple Genius (Jerrod Carmichael) who helps her buy an iPad? He should be a lawyer, and Lori needs to know about it right away. Lori always wakes up to missed calls from her mother in the double digits, and that does not even include the texts, emails or various other forms of communication. When that’s not enough, Marnie starts to go to Lori’s therapist, or browse her Google history.
Marnie is known to show up to Lori’s house unannounced, with bagels, as well. There are also encounters like this, with perfect strangers:
“Can you find an address for a baby shower my daughter won't invite me to?"
Since the movie is inspired by Lorene’s relationship with her own mother, you get an idea of what upcoming project the always-exasperated Lori might be working on. When Lori flies back to New York to start shooting, she has to cut off contact with her mom, which gives Marnie the push she needs to establish her own routine in LA. Naturally, she begins to “nag” and “meddle” Lori’s friends (Cecily Strong and Lucy Punch, who are more than happy to share laughs with Susan… and create their own), and maybe even find love again with Zipper, a retired cop played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons.
Susan is incredible here. She’s funny, of course, but each ramble is pitch perfect. Her overbearing Marnie could easily be a pain in the ass, but you know that her intentions are as pure as they come. All she wants is for her daughter to be happy, as that’s what gives her joy. Lorene’s gentle touch and firsthand embarrassment elevates Susan even more. You know that some of these conversations or moments happened in reality, but even those that are based in truth still feel just as authentic.
In his Oscar speech this year, J.K. Simmons told everybody to call their moms, and their dads. This funny love letter to your parents will get you to do the same thing. The Meddler was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics back in August, but does not yet have a release date. Hopefully, Sony can get their act together, call their respective corporate parents and give this movie the love it deserves.