In 2015, American movie studios received 71% of their box office receipts from international markets. This means execs will continue to greenlight big-budget action and fantasy films that an overseas audience can easily digest. China, in fact, has an agreement with US distributors that stipulates it will only accept films in 3D and IMAX formats.
Drama movies will have to continue to fight for financing and audience share. Even when a film like “The Meddler” does well here in the US (which it did, earning $4 million plus), its perceived lack of international appeal works against the production of similar films.
Hence, it’s important to support filmmakers like Lorene Scafaria who insist on making character-driven movies that speak to women’s experiences. “The Meddler” is autobiographical, based on Scafaria’s mother Gail, who moved to Los Angeles following the death of her husband. The film opens by depicting the prickly relationship between mother and daughter, but soon focuses exclusively on the Gail character. Scafaria, who wrote and directed, is sympathetic to her mother’s point-of-view and is not afraid to examine her own shortcomings.
Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) attempts to make daughter Lori (Rose Byrne) her hobby. Lori, a writer developing a television series based on her family, escapes to New York, leaving Marnie to her own devices. The generous, and lonely, Marnie is soon driving her favorite Apple Store employee to his night classes and bankrolling an elaborate wedding ceremony for one of Lori’s friends.
Underlying Marnie’s generosity, though, is an inability to accept the loss of her husband. When a retired cop (J.K. Simmons) shows an interest in her, she backs away. Still in possession of her husband’s driver’s license and his cremated remains, she delays making a decision on his final resting place. “The Meddler” becomes a film about Marnie’s journey to acceptance and a balanced relationship with her daughter.
Susan Sarandon was Scafaria’s first choice to play Marnie, and the film vindicates that choice. Sarandon, wearing some of Gail Scafaria’s own clothes and driving her car, easily walks the line between comedy and drama. It is impossible not to like the warmhearted and vulnerable Marnie. One of the funniest moments in the film occurs when Marnie is at the airport, waiting at security. Talking up her daughter’s career, she tells the TSA official, “My daughter shot a pilot.” Sarandon’s guileless and perfectly timed delivery is spot on.
While Scafaria relies too much on pop music to underscore the film’s emotions, “The Meddler” is a genuine and entertaining film. No 3D or IMAX required.
“The Meddler” was released in 2016. The film is rated PG-13 for mild profanity and one sequence involving drug use. Available on Amazon Video and DVD, I watched the film at my own expense. Review posted on 11/20/2016.