Susan Sarandon creates a character of many vibrant layers in The Meddler. The writer and producer of this movie defied the odds in getting it made. The live discussion following my screening featured producer Joy Gorman, writer/director Lorene Scafaria and Susan Sarandon. The film is made by women about a woman and her relationship with her daughter – yes, also a woman. The panelists pointed out that pre-production on the project began before the current campaign to raise awareness of the dearth of creative women in filmmaking. Thus it was very difficult for them to obtain funding for the movie. It is fortunate that they did not give up on this piece. It’s poignant, funny and sad, and ultimately human. The characters have endearing idiosyncrasies familiar to almost everyone. Scafaria developed a unique solution to their financial woes. She sent thousands of letters to companies whose products could be promoted in the film. This scheme was successful – however did not quite provide enough financing. So they pitched the script to Susan Sarandon’s agent. Serendipitously, the agent had grown up with a similar mother/daughter dynamic to the main characters and she got the script into Sarandon’s hands. The star loved it and signed on. Then the rest of the funding came together.
The film has many visually and emotionally rich scenes. A climactic scene where Sarandon devours an “egg in a hole” while the frenzied dance music from the classic film Zorba the Greek plays in the background, is priceless – a sexual dance without a word spoken. A scene in an Apple store shows that this “woman of a certain age” knows how to use technology and embraces it.
Casting by Nicole Abellera and Jeanne McCarthy is excellent. The male characters are colorful too. J K Simmons agreed to play a lead in this low profile project even though he had just won his Oscar for Whiplash. Rose Byrne is brilliant as the harried daughter, torn between pushing away her overbearing Mom and reaching for her effervescent warmth. I believe Byrne has huge gifts for both comedic and dramatic roles. Jo Jordan plays an old woman with plaintive eyes in a hospital bed, who never speaks yet conveys deep emotional truths. Every minor player makes an impression. Jerrod Carmichael as the Apple tech especially stands out.
This is Scafaria’s personal story. Her mother is the prototype for Sarandon’s character. Sarandon noted that it was an unusual experience to be able to meet the real person and then draw on her own personality in creating the role. This woman could have been portrayed as an annoying superficial stereotype. However with Scafaria’s excellent writing and Sarandon’s genius they create an amazingly rich tapestry for her. You wish you could flip her “off” switch, yet you realize that her quest to better the lives of everyone around her is actually covering her own pain and demons. You will undoubtedly see similarities to your relationship with your own mother or mother figure and you will fall in love with The Meddler.
Released April 22
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. firstname.lastname@example.org. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com/.