Ever since I first saw the likes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Witches of Eastwick as a young movie-obsessed lad, I have been a big Susan Sarandon fan. Eventually, I graduated on to the superior likes of Dead Man Walking, Bull Durham and Lorenzo's Oil (perhaps my favorite Sarandon turn of all and one I'd argue she deserved the Oscar for), among others, all featuring brilliant Sarandon performances.
In recent years, I've frankly been a bit disheartened by her film appearances, with Sarandon showing up in the Razzie-calibur likes of That's My Boy, Tammy and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. On occasion, there's been the solid film, but Sarandon's often been gravely underused, like opposite Richard Gere in Arbitrage and Michael Douglas in Solitary Man. She's never anything less than interesting, even in the most turgid of pictures, but I've certainly been longing to see her talents fully utilized in a truly great film.
At last, that wish has come true, with writer/director Lorene Scafaria's immensely moving and funny The Meddler, a picture that not only serves as a dazzling leading showcase for Sarandon but nearly reaches Terms of Endearment heights in terms of great mother-daughter movies.
Sarandon's recently widowed Marnie Minervini moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be near daughter Lori (the always-engaging Rose Byrne), who she lovingly bombards with salt bagels and never-ending phone calls (particularly in the wake of an L.A. serial killer who is targeting young single women). While Lori, who's feeling more than a tad suffocated by Marnie's presence, is off in New York for work for a couple of weeks, Marnie connects with an array of new friends back in L.A., portrayed by, among others, Cecily Strong, Jerod Carmichael and the dashing, scene-stealing J.K. Simmons (can he do no wrong?). There's also a small running subplot involving Marnie's visits to an elderly, hospital bed-ridden woman that ends in an immensely moving and unexpected way.
The Meddler strikes a nice balance between comedy and drama, in a way I felt this year's earlier (and rather similar) release Hello, My Name Is Doris couldn't quite master. Like Sally Field in the latter picture, Sarandon's Marnie will for me no doubt go down as one of the year's most memorable and lovable cinematic creations. It's a tremendous treat having the likes of Field and Sarandon on the big screen in meaty, substantive leading roles (on a related note, it's also pretty sweet having Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin tearing it up on the small screen right now to boot) and I wouldn't hesitate one bit to rank The Meddler among Sarandon's finest work to date.
I look greatly forward to whatever Scafaria has next up in the movie queue and hope The Meddler turns out to be a tremendous hit.