TORONTO — A major character in the repellent new Netflix movie “The Starling,” which premiered Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, is the titular bird.
So, it’s only appropriate that I let another winged creature review the film for me.
Quoth the raven: “Nevermore!”
“The Starling” joins Melissa McCarthy’s dud pile, which is Mount Everest next to her modest mound of critical hits. It never stops being upsetting to watch such a formidably talented actress — a genius in “Bridesmaids” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” — make so many awful movies. McCarthy lands in dreck so often, she might as well get TSA Precheck.
Her latest, one of the worst movies of the year, has neither the guts nor the sensitivity for its emotionally difficult plot: She plays Lilly, a mother whose life is shattered when her baby dies of sudden infant death syndrome. A year later, her husband Jack (Chris O’Dowd) is living in a mental health facility to deal with his depression and their marriage is on the rocks. Lilly, meanwhile, is a shell of her old self as she works a job stocking grocery store shelves.
When Lilly’s boss storms up to her in an aisle and exaggeratedly says, “People are noticing you’re acting sort of funny,” we know we’re in for an unbelievably stupid movie with no grasp on humanity whatsoever.
Over at Jack’s, other patients with serious issues are mocked and turned into comic relief by the film (especially Loretta Devine, who clownishly yells at everybody). A concerned doctor there suggests that Lilly go speak about her own struggles with a former colleague, Dr. Larry Fine (Kevin Kline, paying the bills).
“Like ‘The Three Stooges’?” Lilly says. The script, such as it is, is by Matt Harris.
Whelp, Dr. Fine turns out to be a veterinarian who gave up on humans 10 years earlier. He refuses to help Lilly, until one day a small bird in her yard starts to viciously attack her, and injures her head.
Somehow, even in a drama about a mother losing her child, McCarthy does stupid pratfalls. So many stupid pratfalls.
The doc and Lilly begin to chat regularly about the bird, which — would you believe it? — has obnoxious parallels with her own situation.
“It’s breeding season,” Fine says of the starling’s aggression. “Eggs, hatchlings, that sort of thing.”
And later: “Starlings are different from other birds. When they mate, they build a nest together. They’re not meant to be alone.”
Can the starling please claw my eyes and ears out?
Quickly and far too cleanly, Lilly and Jack (O’Dowd’s shtick wears thin), who secretly wasn’t taking any of his medication, make amends and begin to get their life back on track. All of this is set to a schmaltzy soundtrack by Brandi Carlisle.
It comes as a bit of a shock that “The Starling” was directed by Theodore Melfi, whose “Hidden Figures” was deservedly nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. As the credits roll, and the audience runs away, one thing is certain: For Melfi, “Hidden Figures” was a fluke.
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