The Starling movie review (2021) – Theodore Melfi

The Starling movie review

The Starling” by Theodore Melfi, is a film that spends so much energy tugging at your heartstrings that it never establishes a pulse of its own. It’s a stubbornly shallow film with clichés about sadness to the point that it almost plays like the type of parody Oscar bait someone would see in a movie about the movie industry. While this manipulative melodrama is often easy to ignore, what makes “The Starling” more aggravating is the number of excellent people who were drawn into its sadness vortex. There’s something unsettling about seeing actors like Melissa McCarthy or Kevin Kline in roles that require them to play against their natural abilities and interests in developing nuanced characters. It’s more disheartening than anything that happens on screen.

The Starling movie review

It’s difficult not to cry when watching a movie that surrounds the pain and grief of losing a child. I have three children, and thinking about it makes me emotional because I cannot fathom going through something like that. The world doesn’t stop for parents grieving the loss of their child, but Jack (Chris O’Dowd) can’t seem to understand why. He eventually ends up at a psychiatric clinic trying to make sense of it all. Jack’s wife Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) is attempting to keep it together until Jack returns from the facility at the start of Matt Harris’ script. She works at a supermarket (with a boss played by Timothy Olyphant in a role that makes you wonder why someone would cast such a recognizable star in an uninteresting part) and tries to preserve her family’s home, which leads to several confrontations with a rambunctious bird, hence the name. She’s also putting in two hours every week to see her spouse and is starting to question whether he really wants to return home and what life will be like once he does.

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Lilly finds it difficult to take care of herself as she is busy grieving for her husband. A counselor at Jack’s clinic suggests that Lilly should focus on her mental health before her husband comes back into her life. This leads Lilly to the office of a local veterinarian, Kevin Kline, who used to be a therapist but now has a cynical view of the profession. However, his new job will come in handy with the bird subplot. He is also able to advise Lilly without the same barriers as his former profession sometimes created.

Between the Oscar-nominated McCarthy and the Oscar-winning Kline, there is an intriguing tug of war between what they are capable of and what has been given to them by the script. Kline’s character provides depth through back story, but he regresses to trite cliches once again. Kline’s notable humanity on-screen makes every piece of advice he gives to Lilly seem tender; however, it is also simplistic and designed to emotionally provoke the audience. The film is constantly using its characters in ways that don’t feel genuine, and you can see the talented cast fight against it … but losing in the end.

We could probably put up with Jack and Lilly’s unquestioning acceptance of their relationship if we didn’t feel like they’d been through every breakup cliche before it. Why? Because there are themes in this narrative that aren’t often addressed well in melodrama, such as how two people stay together when their shared sorrow isn’t the same. The fact is that extreme tragedy frequently destroys couples in part because we all mourn differently, and the notion that Jack and Lilly are dealing with the loss of their child in such contrasting ways that they may not be able to make it back together opens up rich character-driven discussion. But since everyone is too focused on pushing buttons, this never happens.

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It’s not much help that Melfi guides “The Starling” with all the aplomb of an IPO for Hallmark. It’s a visually flat film, adding to the impression that the major creative impulse was to elicit tears from the audience. When we watch movies, we’re usually receptive to our feelings because they must be earned through character, depth, and realism. We can tell when tears aren’t deserved based on honesty. The fact that “The Starling” is so heavily influenced by how much it wishes your tears were real makes it impossible for your emotions to ever truly soar during this film.

Now playing on Cinema HD.


Film Credits

The Starling movie 2021

Directed by: Theodore Melfi

Written by: Matt Harris

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Laura Harrier, Kim Quinn, Rosalind Chao, Loretta Devine, Kevin Kline.

Release dates: September 12, 2021

Running time: 103 minutes

Country: United States

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