Melissa McCarthy and Kevin Kline both deserve better than this.
Director Theodore Melfi reunites with his “St. Vincent” stars Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd, but unfortunately, unlike that film, “The Starling” is a disappointing mess, and one of the year’s worst. I’m told it has the nature of a Hallmark movie, and while it may be a Netflix entry, it still has the complexity of a Hallmark movie.
Besides McCarthy and O’Dowd, you get a number of wasted talents like Kevin Kline, Daveed Diggs, Timothy Olyphant, Loretta Devine, and Skylar Gisando (the only thing he was good in was “Booksmart”), who all don’t do anything special or anything heartbreaking for that matter. “The Starling” is a dramedy that can’t decide if it wants to be funny or serious. When it tries to be serious, it ends up being predictable, and when it tries to be funny, the jokes fall flat.
McCarthy stars as a grocery clerk named Lily, whose husband Jack (O’Dowd) is at New Horizons, following the death of their bay girl. Every Tuesday, she has to visit him, and is given a reference for one Dr. Larry Fine (Yes, like of the Three Stooges). This Dr. Larry (Kline) is a psychiatrist-turned-veterinarian, who is reluctant to see Lily about her issues, but he soon comes around. Maybe I did like Kline’s performance from time-to-time, but only when he doesn’t have to deal with his animal clients. The worst moments to me are when he has to fix a humping dog and when he deals with a trucker who feeds his cat Cheetos and diner food. And when he does try to grasp his reality, at least he’s trying to be sane about this cockamamy screenplay.
The movie tries to be funny by adding a subplot where Lily is cleaning out her garden, and dealing with a mischievous bird known as a starling. That little bird nips at her head, which is why she must wear a helmet when gardening. She tries everything she can to get rid of it, but of course, she must learn the value of the bird, because of the value of life.
And as you would expect in a movie set in a mental hospital, Jack takes his meds, sneaks them out of his mouth, and hides them in his room. The reason is he’s tired of taking the pills. He doesn’t need them to help out his pain.
Back in 2018, Melissa McCarthy made a much better drama called “Can You Ever Forgive Me” when she portrayed Less Israel. She was exceptional in that film, if you haven’t seen it, but in “The Starling,” it misuses her talents, and relies on the comedy to make her story genuinely likable.
She constantly has to criticize everyone for giving up on themselves. Her husband nearly gave up on himself, her therapist (or if she can even call him her therapist) developed cynicism. “The Starling” is a cynical, meandering, and negative experience. You also have O’Dowd following the pill hiding rules, along with Olyphant showing off terrible acting as the grocery manager, and Laura Harrier (“SpiderMan: Homecoming,” “BlacKkKlansman”) doing a gum selfie (is that supposed to be a thing?). Not even Kline could save these poor souls.
Because of how her recent producing of “Tammy,” “The Boss,” “Life of the Party,” “The Happytime Murders,” “Superintelligence,” and “Thunder Force,” I think she’s better off being told what to do by filmmakers than her telling herself what to do. She was better under the guidance of Paul Feig, Judd Apatow, Theodore Melfi, and Marielle Heller, because they all knew how make her enjoyable to the public. She’s a funny actress, capable of taking on more serious roles, but for some reason, she couldn’t make me like “The Starling.”
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