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Saturday
Apr 23 2016

Dean & The Meddler: A Grief Dramedy Double Feature

Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival.Here'sManuelon two grief-driven features.

Dean (Winner of The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature)
Dean (Demetri Martin,who wrote and directed the film) is a professional illustrator whose first book of drawings was described as "full of whimsy."The same could be said for the film itself.Just as Dean's illustrations (Martin's own) are simple,at times humorous,sketches (a faceless man wearing a t-shirt that reads "Ask me about my face,"a centaur to a horse-headed human body: "It's not bestiality if we 69!"),the film finds comedy in simplicity;there are some surprises here but mostly this is a straightforward affair.You could say thatDeanis a whimsical bicoastal dramedy about grief and it succeeds precisely because it's so assured.

Brooklyn-based Dean has lost his mother,and the narrative follows his attempt at coping with this loss.His father,played with relish by Kevin Kline,is seemingly moving on too fast,wanting to sell the house he shared with his wife,a decision that pushes Dean to flee to Los Angeles.Both men find themselves engaging with women that help push them past their comfort zones.Lessons are learnt,and personal growth is unavoidable,but Martin uses the film's whimsy to his advantage: split-screens and his quirky drawings visually highlight the levity that runs through his script (a meet-cute with Gillian Jacobs is impossibly twee and surprisingly spunky at the same time).That I'm using words like "whimsy"and "twee"in positive terms should tell you that I fell in love with this film even as I know it works within a very specific register that may not be for everyone;then again,any film that gives Mary Steenburgen and Kline a flirtatious scene centered on criticizing a Broadway play about (maybe?) time travel was always going to appeal to my interests.Grade: A-

Susan Sarandon shines after the jump...

The Meddler
IfDeanis a father/son narrative,considerThe Meddlerits female counterpart (don't you love when festivals give you inadvertent double bills like these?)

Susan Sarandon plays Marnie (the aforementioned "meddler,"which if you ask me is a rather unfortunate and misleading title),a Brooklyn transplant living in LA where her screenwriter daughter,Lori,the amazing Rose Byrne,lives.The two are still reeling from the death of Marnie's husband and both have decidedly different ways of dealing with it.Marnie tries to busy herself with anything really ("Anyways,I have been busy planning what's-her-name's wedding and driving Freddy to his night classes,"she tells her daughter in one of the many very funny voicemails that litter the film) while Lori,who's also dealing with depression keeps finding her mother a bit too much ("I tried to talk to my therapist about my mother and boundaries only to find out you had taken her last booked appointment!")—Byrne tops herself yet again finally finding a character that allows her to blend her irreverent and dry comedy with the dramatic chops those of usDamagesfans know she can plumb with ease.

The charm of the film lies solely in Sarandon's portrayal of Marnie;she's a needling and meddling mom who's much too obsessed with Beyoncé's "I Was Here"and with telling others all she's learnt from that "bartender genius"at the Apple Store (Jerrod Carmichael's Freddy).It's a testament to Sarandon that her Marnie is so perfectly drawn;the actress finds pathos in a late-night drunk call to a "special friend"and can land a pot punchline like "my hands are very loud"as effortlessly as she can conjure up the sadness behind her sunniness when she reminiscies about her late husband.

You understand why Lori is so sick of her while also getting why people around her (like "what's-her-name,"Jillian,played by Cecily Strong) would openly agree that Marnie's the best mom Lori could ever have asked for.A romantic subplot involving a retired cop (J.K.Simmons) and another revolving around Lori's New York City-shot pilot do mean the film somewhat strains to keep it all together,feeling at times much too baggy—it would have benefited from a tighter edit—but ultimately it's charming and warm-hearted,with the type of Sarandon performance that'll have us fans drumming up Oscar prospects in hopes it'll at least net her a Golden Globe nod (i.e.It might be this year'sGrandma).Bonus: Billy Magnussen's latest bumbling hot stud performance.Grade:B+/Sarandon:A

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Reader Comments (6)

As a lifelong Susan Sarandon fan,I couldn't be more excited.It's been years since her last great role!

April 23,2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I loved The Meddler so much.And if I may disagree on one point,it isn't too baggy.It's actually just right,full of many beautiful character moments that enhance the narrative.

April 23,2016 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

Me too,as a life long Susan Sarandon fan,I'm so up for this.She's getting great reviews,now some of us have to show up at the box office.

April 23,2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Manuel: No kidding on that misleading title thing.When I first heard about this,my reaction was,"Susan Sarandon is in a movie called The Meddler?So she's playing Old!Velma Dinkley?"And then I heard the actual plot and character names and I went "well,that's a waste of a film title."

April 23,2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I am so glad she turned down the President's role in Inependence Day 2 so she could make this,good on you SueS.

April 24,2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

Thanks,Manuel!I might actually watch The Meddler.Eager to enjoy Susan Sarandon,whom I adore.I remember another Sarandon movie in which,either Byrne or E.Blunton was her daughter or something.

April 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

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