After Lorene Scafaria's father died, her mother Gail moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter, a screenwriter (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) and director (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World). "We were both just grieving in really different ways," says Scafaria from New York, after the film's Tribeca Film Festival premiere. "I thought what she did was really very brave and impressive—starting over in this big strange place—but she also got an iPhone and called me a lot and left a lot of voicemails."
Scafaria has turned this experience into a wonderful comic drama called The Meddler, with Rose Byrne as Lori standing in for her and a crackling Susan Sarandon as Marnie, in the mother part. "I was trying to be as honest as I could about how annoying my Mom could be," she says of writing the script, "but also how mean I could be, and how mean we can be to our moms, the people who love us unconditionally and see us at our worst. Obviously when I was grieving I was at my absolute worst, but once I realized what I looked like from her perspective, it started to get interesting."
It took her years to get the film financed. "I didn't want to make it for television like some people suggested because they said 'female character are allowed to flourish on TV.' Nowhere else, not in real life or anything," she says, laughing. "I finally was so frustrated one night and wrote a letter to Susan Sarandon and sent it to her agent, and her agent—fortunately—has a mom like this and sent the script to Susan."
In the film, Marnie butts into various lives, from a random acquaintance of Lori's (Cecily Strong) to the kid who sells her an iPad (Jerrod Carmichael), but it's all with a fully open heart. "Our intention," says Scafaria, "was to change what the word 'meddler' means, peel it back and see how a lot of it comes from loneliness. And it's all coming from a good place."
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