Susan Sarandon will surely end up being on my ballot at the end of the year if I end up not putting Riley Keough down for ten individual episodes of The Girlfriend Experience. I hadn’t realized how much this was Sarandon’s film and not her and Byrne, who is absolutely fantastic here. Sarandon eats up every line of writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s delightfully funny screenplay. While often overplaying the generational differences in the film a bit too far, Scafaria manages to craft a consistently humorous work, while never putting her focus on the punchline. Much more interested in the relationships of Sarandon’s Marnie, Scafaria continuously focuses on her arc and interactions with all that surround her. Sarandon’s relationship with J.K. Simmons in the film is such an utter delight to witness, as the two play off of each other marvelously. Scafaria strays away from the typical elderly romantic arcs that often appear in works of similar nature. Instead, she provides a complex perception of Marnia and manages to fully flesh out Sarandon’s character without ever succumbing to the expected cliches.
The Meddler runs into hardly any major problems until the third act. The climatic scene at the wedding that Marnie has been using to keep busy pinpoints the flawed neurosis of Sarandon’s character, but this scene just feels so strategically set-up in order to set the final thirty minutes of the film in motion. It’s after this where the film starts to take a turn for the worst. Scafaria attempts to wrap up all of the various arcs that Marnie has made throughout the course of the movie. With only about a scene designated to each of her relationships, the ending just feels incredibly out of character with the rest of the film. It’s rare that a film’s inability to stick the landing has affected my overall experience as much as this, but as someone who consistently revisits films that are cathartic experiences from start to finish, this just isn’t enough for me to fully commit to loving it as much as I had hoped.