The Films of Lorene Scafaria
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (June 22/12)
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World follows Steve Carell's Dodge as he attempts to cope with the impending apocalypse by embarking on a road trip with an off-kilter neighbor (Keira Knightley's Penny). Scafaria has infused the early part of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World with a comedically-charged (yet appropriately downbeat) vibe that's reflected in Dodge's encounters with various supporting characters (eg Rob Corddry's hedonistic Warren, Melanie Lynskey's sweet yet simpleminded Karen, etc), with the meandering atmosphere affording the early part of the proceedings the feel of a low-key character study. It's just as clear, though, that the movie demonstrably stumbles as it enters its episodic midsection, with the proliferation of less-than-stellar segments - eg Dodge and Penny stumble into a restaurant populated by drugged-out waiters and patrons, encounter a house full of survivalists, are arrested by an unreasonably rigid police officer, etc, etc - ensuring that one's interest palpably begins to flag during this stretch. There reaches a very specific point, however, at which Seeking a Friend for the End of the World finally morphs into the affecting drama promised by the setup, and the movie subsequently becomes more and more engrossing in the build-up to its emotionally-wrenching finale - with the irresistibly romantic bent of Dodge and Penny's relationship ensuring that the film, in the end, makes a far more pronounced impact on the viewer than one might've reasonably expected.
Filmmaker Lorene Scafaria's followup to the superb Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Meddler follows Susan Sarandon's Marnie as she attempts to fill the void caused by her husband's recent passing by interfering in her daughter's (Rose Byrne's Lori) life and career. Though it never quite reaches the highs of Scafaria's better-than-average debut, The Meddler nevertheless establishes itself as a perpetually pleasant comedy that benefits considerably from the stellar work of its stars - with Sarandon's completely convincing turn as a well-meaning but aggressively pushy figure standing high atop the movie's list of positive attributes. (And while Byrne is quite good as Marnie's long-suffering daughter, J.K. Simmons, cast as a potential love interest for Sarandon's character, effectively steals each and every one of his all-too-few scenes.) Scafaria does a nice job of peppering The Meddler with a number of palpable truths regarding parent/child relationships, and there's little doubt that the film, though saddled with an irresistibly universal feel, boasts a wide variety of elements that mothers and daughters, especially, will find relatable. And even though the narrative begins to run out of steam near the conclusion - ie the whole thing probably should've topped out at 90 minutes - The Meddler is, for the most part, a solid sophomore effort from a seriously promising writer/director.