SYNOPSIS: After Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) suffers a loss, a battle with a territorial bird (the Starling) over dominion of her garden provides an unlikely avenue for her grief and the courage to heal her relationships and rediscover her capacity for love.
Although she is mostly seen as a comedian than a serious dramatic actress, it had come to a point that Melissa McCarthy should be seen in more dramatic movies than the stuff she did with her hubby.
McCarthy joins hands with fellow comedian, Chris O’Dowd in this drama about grief and loss. After the death of their infant daughter, Lilly (McCarthy) continues to work in the local supermarket while her husband, Jack (O’Dowd) is admitted to a mental facility after failing to kill himself. Week after week, Lilly drives an hour to visit Jack who doesn’t seem to improve a bit until Lilly is advised by Jack’s counselor to visit a former psychologist turned veterinarian, Larry (Kevin Kline) who attempts his best to impart some life lessons.
Without much of a fanfare, The Starling is a heartfelt drama tailored to keep the audiences in tears and mostly, touching on mental illness and the after effects of losing a child. The themes are heavy but the occasional interaction between Lilly and Larry help to keep things light and upbeat.
The bulk of The Starling lies in the broken husband-and-wife relationship which drives the story forward. Jack obviously tormented by the death of his young child finds it hard to carry on in life while Lilly fought on to live a normal life, all the while keeping her grief and suffering to herself. It’s emotionally heartbreaking especially in a teleconversation scene between Jack and Lilly in which they finally bare their thoughts to one another.
Humans are fragile and so are birds. For the uninitiated, the starling is a species of bird which is highly territorial aggressive and Lilly encountered one of them in her small plot of garden. Screenwriter Matt Harris uses the starling as a form of metaphor or a symbol of hope throughout. The attempt however hardly serves the story in general especially when you have a bunch of impressive actors on hand.
McCarthy is great when she is not trying too hard to be funny. Personally, we would like to see more of her in dramatic stuff as she is more relatable playing a grief-stricken wife and mother than a lame superhero. Chris O’Dowd has come a long way since the IT Crowd and he is fantastic as the shattered husband and father. It has been a while since we saw Kevin Kline onscreen and he shines even with his limited role. He plays a psychologist with a haunted past of his own and we rather indulged in that than the CGI bird honestly. Deadwood’s Timothy Olyphant appears as Lilly’s sort of goofy supervisor, a small negligible role to be frank.
If not for the bird and Lilly’s countless comedic falls from the bird attacks, The Starling should be a much better piece on loss, grief and tragedy. The tone at times is uneven unfortunately. But given the strong performances from the various leads, you should give The Starling (the movie not the bird) a chance.
Review by Linus Tee