A dreadful, mawkish drama that has a tin ear for emotion, The Starling is a well-intentioned but spectacularly misjudged exploration of grief that produces awkward performances and cringe-inducing insincerity. Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd are parents, grieving having lost their baby to sudden infant death syndrome; McCarthy has soldiered on, distractedly working at a supermarket and driving once a week to visit her husband O’Dowd, now in psychiatric care following a suicide attempt. A year has passed since their daughter died and they are still stuck unable to really deal with their loss.
Meanwhile, a CGI starling has taken up residence in a tree in their garden and is dive bombing McCarthy whenever she tries to sort out its overgrown condition. The starling is protecting its nest, its young… cue heavy-handed metaphor. McCarthy goes to see her veterinarian ex, brilliant but now jaded psychotherapist Kevin Kline, to try and get some help, realizing that she has not really come to terms with what has happened. Her husband, meanwhile, no longer wants to see her as it’s all too painful. Then the starling gets injured and McCarthy nurses it back to health – and, lo and behold, can deal with what happened.
Director Melfi creates scenes almost parodic in their staging, McCarthy and O’Dowd look uncomfortable throughout and the heavy-handed scoring and music from the likes of The Lumineers does not help the on-the-nose script. At one point after Kline has given her a metaphorical pep talk, McCarthy ironically thanks him for being so subtle; she should have done the same with her own director. The Starling is woefully executed, failing to ring true on any level and should not be given any birdfeed.
Dir: Theodore Melfi (12, 104 mins)
Streaming now via Netflix
words KEIRON SELF
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