All actors possess their own personal gateway into becoming a character. Some require deep memory mining (method). Others require lengthy conversations with the director about seemingly unrelated philosophical topics. And some just need a single physical characteristic around which they can develop a character's entire being. Susan Sarandon is a rare breed who employs the tactics of a character actor -- being comfortable playing her "type" -- while also doing the heavy lifting of a lead who has to transform into someone very far away from her own personality. Sarandon's turn in writer/director Lorene Scafaria's indie comedy The Meddler might just be the perfect showcase for her particular talent.
At the outset, the voice-over from meddling mother Marnie (Sarandon), leaving the first of many messages for her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), feels off because of an overly pronounced New Jersey accent that sounds a little forced from Sarandon's familiar voice. But the moment Marnie's words connect with Sarandon's face, the character is real, and we see this middle-aged woman jaunting around the tourist hot spots of Los Angeles, avoiding difficult discussions about her husband's death while dispensing advice in sentences starting with "You should…" and "What you have to do is…" It's a fun and funny movie that delivers an honest portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship and the heartache that comes not just from losing someone but from moving on after they're gone. Unfortunately, it's not flawless. Making an ultimately positive movie means the possibility of inconceivable gooey sweetness. Scafaria walks the line by giving Lori acerbic tantrums to offset Marnie's overbearing goodness. When Lori's not in the picture, the film suffers.