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TV/Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘The Starling’ (dir. Theodore Melfi) | TIFF 2021

Grief comes in all of shapes and sizes. I thought The Starling took a very thoughtful approach to tackling such a sensitive topic but in an effectively touching yet humorous way. When it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s firing on all cylinders in the best of ways.

Grief comes in all of shapes and sizes. I thought The Starling took a very thoughtful approach by tackling such a sensitive topic in an effectively touching yet humorous way. When it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s firing on all cylinders in the best of ways.

The Starling stars Melissa McCarthy as Lily, who is married to Chris O’Dowd‘s character, Jack. The couple lost their infant daughter a year ago, and Jack has been recovering from the grief of it all in a psychiatric clinic while Lily has been feeling like one who had to hold everything together for them working at the grocery store and visiting Jack at the clinic every week. With an excellent support cast that features Kevin Kline, Loretta Devine, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Rosalind Chao, and Laura Harrier, the ensemble is stellar.

Melissa McCarthy has proven to be one of the most versatile actresses working right now. She has such a myriad of projects under her belt already, and she can tap into different emotions in such a unique way. For some reason, it has become popular to rag on Melissa McCarthy, but forget that. The woman can act! She’s a relatable presence on screen that feels like someone we know, and for that her performances have an innate humanistic quality that feels unmatched.

McCarthy is one of those actors who has really been on a roll lately — especially when you factor in that we’re in the middle of a pandemic — starring in Superintelligence, Thunder Force, Nine Perfect Strangers, and The Starling all over the course of less than a year.

Chris O’Dowd should record audiobooks or something because his voice is just so soothing. He also happens to ben extraordinarily talented actor, who I don’t think gets enough credit for his range. His characters in Bridesmaids, This Is 40, St. Vincent, and now The Starling truly share nothing in common, but his allure draws us in every single time.

Kevin Kline is known for his warm presence with his characters throughout his career, and there is no shortage of that here. He’s such a nice addition to any cast, and it was nice to see him in this. Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, and Timothy Olyphant don’t have much much room to stretch their legs with the roles they’re given here. Loretta Devine could be in every movie from here on out, and I’d be completely on board with that. Laura Harrier felt underutilized in her role given her great talent, and I kept waiting for more, but that never quite kicked in.

I absolutely loved the music featured in The Starling and the way that it complimented the sentiment of this film. The soundtrack features original song contributions from Brandi Carlile, The Lumineers, Judah and the Lion, and Nate Ruess. Each of their folk-oriented tracks work cohesively and in connection with the representation of everyday life that’s being portrayed on screen. With a story as gut-wrenching as this, it needed to have an equally powerful set of songs that expressed a range of emotions, and it was successful in that regard.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Brandi Carlile’s original song, “The Last Time,” was at least in the conversation for Best Original Song this year at various award shows.

There are some predictable parts that follow an obvious path sometimes, but that is to be expected when you’re watching a pull-on-your-heartstrings type movie. That only lasts so long, though, because there were some risks taken that paid off greatly. Personifying the pain, getting through the grief (not over it), and coming together when a situation tries to tear you apart. 

The Starling premiered during the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Netflix is set to release the film theatrically on September 17 and on Netflix on September 24.

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