Saturday, September 25, 2021

Netflix: Review of THE STARLING: Grieving and Giving

September 25, 2021

Supermarket assistant manager Lily Maynard (Melissa McCarthy) tried her best to cope with life at home and at work while her husband, elementary art teacher Jack (Chris O'Dowd), is confined in a mental health facility. While tending to her plants one day, Lily got attacked by a starling which had built its family's nest in a tree in her garden. In her daily altercations with the territorial bird, Lily was able to free the frustrations she had bottled up inside her. 

Being a film about mental health, this film can be very depressing as we witness both Jack and Lily trying in their own ways to face a major tragedy that deeply affected them both one year ago. While Lily eventually made her way back to work in the supermarket (albeit not in her usual temperament and efficiency), it was Jack that found it more difficult to accept his great loss, resorting to a drastic act of desperation that later landed him in the institution. 

Melissa McCarthy had already been recognized for her work in drama, even getting an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for the film "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" (Marielle Heller, 2018). It was not a surprise anymore that she can do serious roles like Lily, and she did very well indeed. However, she was still given much room for situations which require very physical comedy with her stressful interactions with the aggressive starling. 

I am not very familiar with Chris O'Dowd before this film, but his impressive work here certainly made me pay attention. He was able to project the deep-seated guilt gnawing at Jack's very soul which made him feel that his life had no more value. The confessional group therapy session with his therapist Regina (Kim Quinn) and his farewell session with his psychiatrist (Ravi Kapoor) were subtle and powerful soul-bearing scenes for O'Dowd. 

One of the delightful supporting characters was Dr. Larry Fine, played by a much-missed Kevin Kline. He was a top-level psychologist and therapist turned veterinarian, who tried to help Lily face her situations with more honesty. There was so much more about this doctor's story that was not yet told. With that 180-degree career shift and his compassion for animals and their owners, this is a great idea for a solo comeback movie for Kline. 

With the serious theme of this film about dealing with grief, McCarthy and O'Dowd are both in (melo)dramatic mode for the most part. However, director Theodore Melfi ("Hidden Figures") still allowed their sense of humor to shine through, making their characters more endearing and empathetic to watch. It was not difficult to root for Jack and Lily to get through this tough patch in their lives and be moved by their efforts to reconnect with each other. 7/10. 

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