Friday, 20 May 2016


Sony Pictures

Despite its sitcom premise of smothering mother and ungrateful daughter uncomfortably co-existing in the wake of the husband and father's death, The Meddler manages to be a poignant comedy-drama about grief and mother-daughter relations.

Writer-director Lorene Scafaria is certainly fortunate to have landed Susan Sarandon for the role of Marnie, the Brooklyn widow now residing in sunny LA to be close to her screenwriter daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne). Similarly, Sarandon has been equally gifted; the role of Bonnie arguably the best she's had since winning her Oscar for Dead Man Walking 21 years (!!!) ago.

With too much time and money on her hands, and not nearly enough time with her daughter -- when Lori is not trying to finish a script before TV pilot season, she's lamenting the loss of her actor boyfriend -- Marnie fills her days and nights doing good deeds for others; gay wedding planning here, taxiing an Apple store employee to community college there.

Of course what Bonnie is really trying to do isn't so much stave off boredom but her loneliness and yet-unresolved grief, a grief which neither mother and daughter seem prepared to deal with; as Marnie reaches out to her daughter and a shared history, her daughter shies away, unable to see her mother without acknowledging the man missing from the picture.

Although there may be another man in Marnie's life, if she just lets her guard down. Borderline retired cop Zipper (J.K. Simmons), a divorcee with his own distant daughters and a hen house full of substitutes, could be just what the doctor prescribed if Marnie could sit still long enough to find out; Sarandon and Simmons sharing a warm rapport.

There's nothing revelatory or profound about The Meddler; it plays in a much quieter register, even if Marnie's Brooklyn accent is anything but subtle. But beneath that squawk and bravado, Sarandon lets us see the woman. And like with any mother, when you aren't trying to escape her, you can't help but want to hug her.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


Giants, and mermaids, and Dolan, oh my!

The full program for the 63rd Sydney Film Festival has been announced with 244 films from 60 countries screening across the 12-day Festival in June, ensuring there is something to satisfy every film fetish (from vampire mermaids to all-purpose corpses) and age group.

Kudos to local distributor Transmission Films, who have scored the honour of both the Opening and Closing Night slots: the former the latest release by local filmmaker, Ivan Sen, Goldstone; the latter Whit Stillman's delightful Jane Austen adaptation, Love & Friendship.

But in between Day 1 on June 8, and closing night on June 19, there is plenty to watch. Steven Spielberg makes his SFF debut with his Roald Dahl adaptation, The BFG, screening as part of the Family Films program (which also features the fifth installment in the Ice Age franchise, Collision Course), while for the first time, a 15+ rating will be used for 93 of the titles, meaning teenagers will not miss out on those films which would previously have received an automatic 18+ rating.

As always, there will be titles fresh from the Cannes Film Festival, with not one but two favourite auteurs' latest titles screening: Pedro Almodovar's Julieta, and Xavier Dolan's It's Only The End of the World, starring Marion Cotillard (pictured above, le sigh). There are also titles and prizewinners from Venice 2015, and Sundance and Berlin 2016.

Among the previously announced titles, personal standouts include John Carney's Sing Street (another musical gem from the director of Once and Begin Again), and Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!!, the director's first film since Boyhood (which played at SFF in 2014), and a spiritual companion piece to his 1993 feature, Dazed and Confused.

But there's too much to mention here, so why not check out the SFF website, and snap up some tix.