I’m a big fan of Melissa McCarthy and the majority of her work. McCarthy is not only a huge comedic talent, she’s also proven to be a gifted dramatic actress with projects like Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Nine Perfect Strangers. She is not what ends up sinking this film; the lackluster script is the culprit here. The Starling just feels like an incomplete lazy version of what could have been an interesting drama. Even a seasoned industry professional like Kevin Kline can’t do very much to uplift the material. It’s a shame because McCarthy is a wonderful leading lady. It just goes to show you how crucial a well written script is and without that you’re basically sunk.
McCarthy is solid throughout and really delivers when it comes to both the dramatic and comedic moments. There’s one extended scene of hers that I particularly loved where she goes on a rage filled rant. Just that scene alone is enough to show you that she’s able to handle serious material. She plays her character very well and is able to make her character both strong and sympathetic. And of course she handles the funny bits very well too. Nothing from McCarthy falls flat.
The supporting cast members are pretty much all duds, unfortunately. Kevin Kline, a very fine actor, is wasted almost entirely. His part is just poorly written, so much so I’m kind of surprised Kline took it. And while Chris O’Dowd has a few nice moments as McCarthy’s grief stricken husband, his material is also lacking. I’m afraid no one in this cast has it worse than Timothy Olyphant though. I’m baffled as to why Olyphant accepted this role, it’s a NOTHING role. He has less than five minutes of screen time and all his dialogue is lazy attempts at comedy.
The film’s story in and of itself is interesting enough but the execution is so dull. There’s no subtlety to the storytelling here. Nearly every part of this story is told in the simplest and most general of ways. There were many times while watching this where I just winced at the awkward tone. A number of scenes shift between comedy and drama in an uneven jarring way. We go from McCarthy’s character wearing a helmet to protect herself from a killer Starling in her garden to her having deep conversations with it about her sad life.
The tonal shifts aren’t smooth or natural. It’s also hard for us to root for McCarthy and O’Dowd’s marriage because the script doesn’t really give us a good look into what their relationship was like prior to their daughter’s death. There just isn’t much romantic chemistry between them. At one poin,t I thought that maybe it would be better for them to just separate and move on with their lives.
Also, the weird relationship that McCarthy’s character has with this lethal bird just feels strained. I get that it’s supposed to be sweet and redemptive in a way but it doesn’t come across that way. It’s just another example of how this film botches what could have otherwise been a sweet heartwarming story. I will say that I did laugh at a few of the scenes where the bird attacks McCarthy. She flexes her comedic muscle pretty well in those scenes. But you know that your drama is in peril when a bird attacking Melissa McCarthy is more satisfying than any of the dramatic content. If you would like to see a new worthwhile dramatic Melissa McCarthy project I’d suggest Nine Perfect Strangers.
The Starling is a weakly written drama that even Melissa McCarthy and Kevin Kline can’t save. This is for sure one to skip.
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