Anyway, we don’t see enough mother/daughter relationships on the big screen, and we especially don’t see enough of that dynamic as told from the mother’s perspective. Which is exactly where The Meddler steps in, hopefully beginning a trend that will right that cinematic wrong. The Meddler, starring Susan Sarandon as meddling mom Marnie (who begins every long-winded voicemail to her daughter Lori — played by Rose Byrne — with the word “anyway”), tells the story of these women as they work through the grief of losing Marnie’s husband and Lori’s father. When we enter the world of The Meddler, Marnie has recently moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to Lori — the film’s heart and humor unfold from there.
“The film is inspired by my mother, who is a bit of a meddler, herself,” screenwriter and director Lorene Scafaria (best known for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) told HelloGiggles in an interview. “She moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles after my dad passed away, about six years ago, to be closer to me, and now we’re very, very, very, very close.” If the scenes in the film are any indication of the closeness, Scafaraia could likely add a few more “verys” in there.
“[My mom] is certainly a meddler but I was so much more interested in telling her side of the story, and really changing what ‘meddler’ means, and seeing what your mom is doing when you’re not calling her back,” Scafaria said. “She’s always been there for me and I really just wanted to tell her side of the story.”
As for what Marnie does when Lori doesn’t call her back, she keeps quite busy. She makes friends and forms relationships (notably with a retired cop named Zipper, played by J.K. Simmons), she helps plan a wedding and muddles through her widow’s grief the best way she knows how — by connecting.
“I met with Lorene, and I was happy she was so passionate about telling the story,” Sarandon told HelloGiggles about her initial attachment to the film. “If you ask a director, ‘why do you want to do this?’ and they don’t have an answer, that’s always a red flag. But she did have an answer.” Her answer, of course, was to tell this very personal story. But with that specificity also comes a universality, a “my mom does that too” kind of feeling.
“I was just obsessed with Susan playing the part,” Scafaria told us. So, after cold e-mailing Sarandon’s agent the script, then having the aforementioned conversation with Sarandon, Scafaria sent on some footage that sealed the deal. “[Lorene] sent me a little sizzle reel of her actual mom doing the actual opening of the movie — going shot by shot, exactly what you see in the film — and I just fell in love with her once I saw the embodiment of what I was reading,” Sarandon said in a separate conversation.
While Sarandon and Scafaria both noted the differences between the fictionalized version of Marnie and Lorene’s actual mom, there are qualities in her that Sarandon definitely understood. “I can relate to her feelings of loneliness and trying to date again after you’ve been in a long relationship, even though my spouse didn’t die,” Sarandon said. “Starting out again and figuring out, as an older person, how that works and trying to be there for your kids but at the same time not be too meddling. I am a meddler and they meddle back.”
Discussing these mother/daughter relationships — both on-screen and off — brought to light just how underrepresented these special relationships are in Hollywood. “It’s a great relationship to explore,” Byrne added. “What’s funny is people say there have been so many of these [mother/daughter films],” Scafaria said. “But then I really did have trouble thinking of them. I feel like you have to almost go back to the ’80s to really find them. There are great mother/daughter relationships seen on film, but since so many of them are from the daughter’s perspective the moms aren’t really that fleshed out necessarily.”
As for their favorite mother/daughter movies to watch, “Terms of Endearment is a heartbreaker,” Byrne said. “I had fun doing Stepmom,” Sarandon added. “Talking to those kids, trying to figure out ways to make that situation specific, not just mother/daughter but also mother/son.”
Scafaria’s picks echo Byrne’s, “Well, Terms of Endearment is like the greatest film of all time. Postcards From the Edge is also good.”
As for us, we’ll be adding The Meddler to our list. Anyway . . .
The Meddler is now playing in select theaters.