After the death of her husband, a woman named Marnie (Susan Sarandon) relocates to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), a Hollywood screenwriter. While Lori frets about her mom’s smothering ways, Marnie keeps getting involved in the lives of others: She dates an ex-cop named Zipper (J.K. Simmons), helps an Apple Store employee named Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael) study for school, and pays for a lesbian wedding.
Susan Sarandon is one of my favorite actresses. It’s a shame though as she hasn’t really been in anything memorable this past millennium, or at least in anything I can remember (although I could be wrong). So when I heard about this one, I was excited because this one actually looked good and it also boasts one of my other favorite actors, J.K. Simmons. It took a little while to finally get to where I live but it was well worth the wait.
If there was ever anyone more suited to play a mother, it would be Susan Sarandon. This isn’t a jab at her age but she played the role many, many times in the past (there are too many to list so just check her IMDB page). At this point, it suits her quite well and she has just gotten better and better with the passing of time, probably offering her best effort here. This also is not a jab at her age but there is just something about her that is caring and mother-like which translates to her character of Marnie being real and likeable. While Sarandon brings a lot of these qualities on her own with her performance, this was also achieved through the writing and the script. It could have been easy for Marnie to be an overbearing mother cliche but luckily there is more to her character than that.
The main focus of the plot here was the relationship between Marnie and her daughter Lori (Byrne) and how it developed over the course of the film. It was very clear how close Marnie and Lori whether or not Lori would have wanted it that way. Their relationship was great on screen and their scenes were compelling. This is due to the great chemistry between Sarandon and Byrne. This made everything just feel more real and relatable. Unfortunately, this relationship does take a backseat as the film chooses to tell the story mostly from Marnie’s perspective. This meant that we got to follow her around for a while which was good. Lori started getting uncomfortable with the level of Marnie’s involvement in her life which forces Marnie to figure out what she wants to do with her life.
In doing so, we got to follow her through several subplots which were fun to watch as Marnie and Sarandon brought her charm and likeability to many different situations. She would involve herself within the live of others where she would help one of Lori’s friends, Jillian (Cecily Strong), plan a marriage, helps a young Apple store employee named Freddy (Carmichael), and she also volunteers at a hospital where she befriends an old, mute woman (Jo Jordan). The film also gave Marnie a love interest in the form of a man named Zipper (Simmons). Their scenes were good with Simmons being serviceable in the part. But it felt like the film would have worked just fine without them.
These worked for the most part even though they never went anywhere and provided some other great moments for Sarandon to shine. These subplots had little to do with the main plot and just distracted and took focus away from what the film should have been more about which was the relationship between Marnie and Lori. For the longest time, it was also hard to tell where the plot was going. This isn’t so bad as this is how she got to her inevitable conclusion but without giving anything away, could have been done better. Since the focus was mostly on Marnie, when Lori came to her inevitable conclusion, it felt a little forced since we never really got an idea as to how she got there.
While the story may not be completely up to par, it’s the acting that really made this film. Unsurprisingly, Sarandon was amazing here as Marnie where here constant optimism and good will was fun to watch and infectious. She doesn’t have to convince anyone of her mother-ness but she definitely continued her good run of mom roles here. She brought more to the character, making her someone likeable and worth rooting for. Byrne also excelled with the lesser screen time she had compared to Sarandon. She was able to lose herself in her character, portraying her character’s very fragile state. Their chemistry is the best part of the film. Everyone else was good too but this was really Sarandon and Byrne’s film.
Overall, this was a good film featuring good performances by Sarandon and Byrne but could have given more attention to their relationship.
*photos courtesy Mongrel Media*