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The Lobster and The Meddler: Hard Boiled and Overdone

Throw one back and leave the other alone


To determine whether you should pay full admission to see The Lobster, take the following quiz:

• If you enjoy the work of filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alps), give yourself two points.

• If you're a fan of Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz or Ben Whishaw, give yourself one point for each.

• If you prefer surrealist cinema from the likes of Luis Bunuel, Charlie Kaufman or David Lynch, you get three points.

• If you've seen every other critically acclaimed film and have an extra Hamilton burning a hole in your pocket, add one point.

And there you have it. On a scale of zero to 10, your total score should truly drive your decision of whether to order The Lobster or toss it back to the sea.

As for me, The Lobster was rarely delightful, more often obnoxious and always confounding. With an original script by Lanthimos and co-author Efthymis Filippou, this dark comedy tells the story of a dystopian future in which it is illegal to be single. Anyone not partnered by early adulthood is shipped off to a tacky hotel where they have 45 days to hook up with a romantic partner or be turned into an animal and cast into the wild. The premise was daffy enough to be entertaining but even after two viewings, for the life of me, I didn't get it. I understood it, but I just didn't get it.

The good folks at the Cannes Film Festival loved The Lobster. It received the 2015 Cannes jury prize. I'm not certain, however, if that's high praise. Cannes has previously handed its top prize to the sublime (Amour, 2012) the pretentious (The Tree of Life, 2011) and the absurd (Dancer in the Dark, 2000).

Unfortunately, the news is also not so good for The Meddler. I screened this film at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and when I referred to my notes, some rather unpleasant memories came rushing back about this disappointing follow-up from Lorene Scafaria, whose writer/director debut was the 2012 rom-com, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

In The Meddler, Susan Sarandon plays Marnie Minervini, a mother from, well, maybe not hell, but close. When her husband passes away, Marnie pulls up her Brooklyn roots and heads west to invade daughter Lori's (Rose Byrne) life in Los Angeles. Soon, this meddling mom is combing through Lori's Internet browser history and telling Lori's ex her daughter is still in love with him.

While The Meddler evokes a handful of laughs and a few sobs, Sarandon and Byrne are both fine actresses and deserve better. The Meddler feels way too familiar—and that's not a compliment.

Related Film

The Meddler

Official Site:

Director: Lorene Scafaria

Producer: Joy Wettels, Paul Green, Steve Golin, Shea Kammer and Susan Sarandon

Cast: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Jerrod Carmichael, Cecily Strong, Lucy Punch, Casey Wilson, Jason Ritter, Sarah Baker, Michael McKean, Laura San Giacomo and Harry Hamlin