INDIE FLICKS: The Meddler
Smother-mothering is second nature to Marnie Minervini, the well-meaning widow at the center of The Meddler (PG-13). Marnie is compulsively maternal, oblivious to all boundaries her adult daughter tries to set. She's a character capable of launching a thousand sitcom episodes that Susan Sarandon raises to a richer level.
Marnie is starting over after her husband's death, his wealth allowing her move from New York to Los Angeles where daughter Lori (Rose Byrne) is a TV showrunner. Lori has neither time nor patience for Marnie's constant interference in her recently ended relationship with an actor (Jason Ritter).
Writer-director Lorene Scafaria based The Meddler on her mother and their experience, giving the movie an honesty transcending its stock circumstances. She isn't easy on herself through Lori, creating discomfort comedy, not easy setups and punch lines. Even smarter, Scafaria expands Marnie's sphere of influence to daughter substitutes, volunteerism and possibly romance.
A solid cast orbits Sarandon, led by Oscar winner J.K. Simmons in full Sam Elliott baritone effect as a retired motorcycle cop patiently courting Marnie. Hardly a scene passes without a welcome face appearing — Jerrod Carmichael, Cecily Strong, Lucy Punch, Michael McKean — combining to create Marnie's character study by committee.
The Meddler opens Friday at select Tampa Bay theaters. B
ALSO OPENING: Neighbors 2
After making airbags the new whoopie cushions, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron return in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (R). Someone really should consider moving to a deed-restricted community.
This time its a rogue sorority moving in next door to Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and busy Rose Byrne), disrupting their lives in all sorts of raunchy ways. Kick-Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz, right, leads the distaff debauchery. Mac calls in former lead frat dog Teddy Sanders (Efron) to beat these women at their own depraved games.
Like so many raucous college comedies, the first Neighbors featured a party theme memorable enough to be imitated in real life, with everyone dressing as a Robert De Niro character. Who can forget Efron as Taxi Driver Travis Bickle and Dave Franco as De Niro in Meet the Fockers? If Moretz's Kappa Nu crew comes up with anything that funny, not just the carwash/stripper pole images shown in trailers, then sororities everywhere can begin ordering props and costumes.
THE NICE GUYS
Russell Crowe is the brawn, making Ryan Gosling the brains purely by default in The Nice Guys (R), a messy but entertaining action comedy set in 1977 Los Angeles. My grade B- review is available here.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1Sing Street: Dublin lads form an '80s pop band, from the creator of Once.
2 Captain America: Civil War: Marvel's superhero family in smart disarray.
3 The Jungle Book: Astonishing CGI visuals, and Bill Murray's voice to boot.
4Money Monster: George Clooney leverages his star power, in a dog day thriller.
5The Meddler: Susan Sarandon's warmest, funniest performance in years.
(dates subject to change)
May 27: X-Men: Apocalypse; Alice Through the Looking Glass; The Lobster; Love & Friendship
June 3: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows; Me Before You
June 10: Warcraft; Now You See Me 2; The Conjuring 2: The Endfield Experiment
June 17: Finding Dory; Central Intelligence
June 24: Independence Day: Resurgence; Free State of Jones
June 29: The Shallows
July 1: The BFG; The Legend of Tarzan; Swiss Army Man