Are you a meddler of a mother? Be honest. If you don’t think you are, you might change your tune after seeing the new film by Lorene Scafaria (“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), “The Meddler” starring Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, and J.K. Simmons.
I had the opportunity talk with Scafaria in Chicago during her publicity tour. This auto-biographical film creates hilarious realistic situations and conversations that will not only entertain you, it’ll make you reflect on your own relationship with your mother or daughter. Learning about the backstory, casting, and difficulties in getting this project “green-lit” makes this an even more enjoyable film, perfect for the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday.
“The Meddler” is a multi-layered and emotional film touching upon loss, identity, independence, and the need to be needed. Marni (Sarandon) moves to Los Angeles after her husband’s death to be closer to her daughter, Lori (Byrne). Armed with a seemingly endless back account, thanks to her departed husband, and an iPhone, and time on her hands, Marni bombards her daughter with constant text messages, phone calls, and surprise visits. Lori’s patience wear thin, understandably so, and Marni attempts to find a new purpose in life--- meddling in other people’s lives and not addressing her own issues.
Scafaria confided, “I actually just set out to make a character study about a woman based on my mother so I didn’t really know all the themes that were going to run through it when I set out to write it.” Scafaria had plenty of real life material to use in writing the script. Her mother did move to Los Angeles shortly after her father’s death and purchased an iPhone, calling her non-stop. Scafaria said, “I just wasn’t sure how personal this was going to get...” but at the core of the story is “...grief and grieving in really different ways with someone you love and how hard it can be.”
The humor is the thread that ties this film together. From Sarandon’s NewYork accent, learned from a dialect coach and listening to Scafaria’s mother’s voice messages, to meeting the Italian family back in NYC, the characters are simply over-the-top fun. Scafaria shared that the Italians in the dinner scene were actually her aunts and uncles--- “...no names were changed!” Scafaria also admited that she drove the set master nuts, but for good reason. “I wanted all the details to be like it was at my Nona’s house on Sundays for dinner...It was definitely fun to show what an Italian family was to me, fresh off the boat Italians.”
Getting a film made about an older woman wasn’t easy. In fact, until Sarandon’s name was attached to the project, Scafaria struggled, constantly being told to make the mother younger or make the daughter’s role bigger, but Scafaria felt that would ruin the entire feel of the film. How does a female filmmaker in a male dominated film world find the strength to not compromise and stick to her guns? Scafaria credited her heritage. “Maybe because I’m an immigrant’s daughter. Or maybe because I’m scrappy and I’m 5’3”.” She passionately continued, “...every time they said something like, ‘Can you do this for television because female characters are allowed to flourish on television,’ it made me crazy. So honestly, all those negative words made me more determined to tell the story.”
Once Sarandon’s name was attached, things fell into place. Scafaria shared that Sarandon “...wanted to really embody the character of my mother. [In fact], she wore all my mom’s tops from Chico’s...she really wanted to disappear into a character.” Scafaria’s real life mother “...is having the time of her life. It’s her favorite movie!” She told Scafaria, “Aren’t moms fun?”
“The Meddler” is a humorously poignant look at aging, grief, identity and the need for connection. As Scafaria said, “It’s ok to be a meddler. [This film] is meant to be a loving portrait of a meddler.” She laughed aloud, “Hopefully it’ll change what a meddler means so that your kids will see it and feel bad. It’s meant to guilt adult children.” OK, Jon and Kelsey. Guess what movie we are going to see this weekend because, yes, moms are fun (and I want you to feel a little guilty)!
Life Editor Taylor Leddin's weekly column:
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