HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Meddler
HTS Overall Score:73
Lorene Scafaria’s sophomore film (after directing “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” back in 2012) came and went from theaters before the summer rush could even hit. Barely seen by critics and only seen in short commercials, I vowed to watch it when it hit Blu-ray and DVD due to my love for her first directorial job. On home video “The Meddler” is a first for Sony, as the press released announced a wide Blu-ray and DVD release, but just before street date it was suddenly changed to where only the DVD would be a retail disc, and the Blu-ray was slipped off to Sony’s brand new MOD line (for those of you wondering, MOD stands for Manufactured on Deman, meaning the discs are put on Burnable BD recordable media as the orders come in from certain online retailers. So sadly I could only get my dirty little mitts on the DVD copy.
The story itself seemed like a comedy from the trailer, with Rose Byrne playing a massive role, but I was almost pleasantly surprised to see that the film was nowhere near as grating as I had feared, and certainly much more of a dramedy at heart. Marnie (Susan Sarandon) is just getting over the death of her Italian American husband, and is desperately trying to reacquaint herself with her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne) in all the wrong ways. Becoming the stereotypical meddling mother, she insinuates herself into every situation in Lori’s life, driving the poor girl nearly batty. Not content with that, Marnie ends up trying to “help” as many people in her surrounding life as she can. The young guy at the local electronics store, a friend of Lori’s who is trying to get her wedding planned, and just about everyone else she can possibly think of in an effort to adapt to living alone without someone who NEEDS her.
However, things change when she meets Zipper (J.K. Simmons), an ex-cop who shows an interest in Marnie despite her oddities. With him she suddenly allows herself to be vulnerable. The deciding factor in adapting to her life without her husband and recognition that living vicariously through other people is not the same as living your own life.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79874[/img]Finding balance in life is a bit of a tough thing when things go out of whack. We all have tragedy and frustrations in our life that threaten to capsize the proverbial boat, but it’s all in how we deal with them. Some people drink themselves to death, some people turn to God, and other people try to fill their life with people. It’s a typical and sadly all too common phenomena in life. It’s all in the details though, and “The Meddler” actually hits more right notes than I honestly expected it to. Susan Sarandon is the perfect person to play the annoying mother who just won’t let up. She was born for that type of role and she fills it perfectly. My real concern was about how she would be as a sympathetic character. I’m usually not a fan of Sarandon because she ISN’T very likeable in many of her roles. However, in this case she is able to balance the annoying aspect of Marnie’s personality with a very vulnerable and sensitive side that is just begging to be let out. Rose Byrne is great in the role of Lori, but she is almost a side character in the film, as Marnie’s odyssey from desperate and alone to coming to grips with her situation is the real focus.
The comedy is more wry and situational in regards to Marnie’s absurdity more than anything. Most of the movie is played straight as an arrow, but you’ll still be chuckling along the entire ways as the antics she goes through and the situations she gets into is where the humor is. The dramedy is sweet and kind, while also being simplistic and fairly formulaic at the same time. Which is kind of expected as the dramedy genre is pretty bone dry in terms of new and exciting material unless you want to go all experimental/Indie on us here. However, Lorene manages to push the right buttons in allowing us to feel sympathy and attachment to both the characters without seeming overly sappy or overly annoying. J.K. Simmons is fairly thruway, but the man can’t turn in a bad performance (even f the movie he is in is completely awful), and his sincere adherence to the loveable, but stern, older gentlemen makes Marnie’s opening up to him all the more believable.
Rated PG-13 for brief drug content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79882[/img]Sadly I couldn’t review the Blu-ray for you today, but the 2.39:1 Mpeg 2 encode DVD (which is strange as most comedy’s or dramas use the more height oriented 1.78:1 or 1.85:1 aspect ratio) is quite nice. Rich and warm in texture, the movie sports brightly lit sequences with good color depth and saturation that looks remarkably natural. Usually films today tend to be color graded to death, but “The Meddler” maintains a fairly normal looking color tone, and the brightly lit outdoor settings are homey and cheery. Whites can be pushed a bit high sometimes, but never overly so. Black levels are solidly deep and inky, though there is a flicker of haloing in a few scenes that actually surprised me. It’s a nice transfer for a DVD, and I can only imagine the Blu-ray looking even better.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79890[/img]This is a dramedy, need I say more? By that admission you can expect a normally front heavy mix that relies on dialog for a majority of the heavy lifting. And in that case you would certainly be right. Dialog is the crux of the film, and said vocals are crisp and cleanly iterated, without so much as a flicker of distortion or imbalance with the rest of the mix. The film sports a nice old fashioned country score thanks to her dealings with Zipper (and I mean traditional country, not this garbage we have today that is called country). Bass is mainly relegated as support for the soundtrack, or for a simple door slam, but it is still present nonetheless. Surrounds are mildly used, but still effectively when necessary, such as the more active city environments, or when Marnie is in the middle of the wedding she organized. It’s a simple track, but one that does everything asked of it extremely well.
• Commentary with Susan Sarandon and Director Lorene Scafaria
• Two Featurettes:
o “The ‘Real’ Marnie”
o “The Making of The Meddler”
• Gag Reel
What “The Meddler” lacks for in boldness, it makes up for in simplicity and heart. Marnie is both and absurdly annoying and sweetly loveable lady at the same time (well, at least by the end of the film the latter persona comes into play). She and Rose Byrne work well together and even more so with the incredibly talented J.K. Simmons. The DVD is fairly barebones, but still sports some very solid audio and video scores, making me have to give this one a solid single thumbs up. It isn’t the most inventive dramedy on the face of this planet, but still a rather enjoyable one. Recommended as a solid watch.
Starring: Rose Byrne, Susan Sarandon, J.K. Simmons
Directed By: Lorene Scafaria
Written By: Lorene Scafaria
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 100 Minutes
DVD Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Buy The Meddler on DVD at Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
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