The Starling is a manipulative cinematic therapy session equivalent to treating depression with a Flintstones vitamin. The wrong blend of comedy and drama.
This review of the Netflix film The Starling does not contain spoilers.
I am not judging anyone who enjoys The Starling. Most will love its odd mix of mainstream humor and melodrama. They will walk out of the theater like they have been snuggled by a couple of dozen warm rays from the sun. While most may feel like they got hit by that vengeful son of a bitch bird who keeps diving at Melissa McCarthy like a B-52 bomber that has very little to do with anything honest in the story. It is a manipulative, steaming pile of cinematic garbage that does not treat its theme of depression with an ounce of sincerity or seriousness.
Directed by Theodore Melfi of Hidden Figures fame and written by Matt Harris, it’s the cinematic therapy equivalent of a Flintstones vitamin. McCarthy plays Lilly, a woman who lives in the country and works at the local grocery store. She is married to her husband, Jack, a former elementary school teacher who has had a mental breakdown. They lost their child a year ago, and now he has been admitted to a mental health facility after trying to commit suicide.
The Starling’s script has had its admirers. Back in 2005, it made the famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) blacklist, a collection of most admired unproduced screenplays. You can immediately tell why. It’s a more manipulative Mother Fratelli, replacing any opportunity for natural themes that go with this subject matter for irreverent comedy. It never takes the themes of mental health seriously. So little, McCarthy’s Lily seeks help from a former mental health clinician who is now a veterinarian played by the always endearing Kevin Kline. It is as if the filmmakers want to say, “Look how offbeat and goofy we can be!”
The Starling is just the wrong balance of comedy and drama. To make matters worse, the bird’s symbolism is never made clear to the audience. Even if it’s about letting go of the old and letting in the new. Yet, that is never communicated. Even taking in such a thought process seems cold and callous when talking about the loss of a child. That is unnatural. While the performances are fine, each role you feel has some hidden depths and backstories that are never explored. Everything is superficial.
What did you think of the Netflix film The Starling? Comment below.