The process of grieving is a thankful subject for a drama and for any actor to sink their teeth in. But does Theodore Melfi’s ‘The Starling’ have anything fresh to add?

Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) are set for a happy life when tragedy strikes. Reeling from the loss of their baby, both go on their own respective journeys to try and find a way forward in life. With or without each other.

A pretty straightforward starting point for any movie you’d think. But then Melfi (and mostly screenwriter Matt Harris) try to do everything in their power to make the proceedings as sappy as possible.

McCarthy’s character Lilly is our main focus. As she tries to get her life back together by cleaning up her home and getting rid of what reminds her of the baby, she is attacked by overly territorial starlings in her garden. She ends up sharing her grief (and her bird issues) with retired shrink and vet Larry (Kevin Kline). Meanwhile O’Dowd gets to do all the therapy clichés, hiding away from the real world in a clinic by his own choice.

If it hadn’t been for the quality cast doing their utter best with the material, ‘The Starling’ would be a huge waste of time. The screenplay has nothing even vaguely interesting to say about grieving and every story beat is as predictable as it gets. The film seems almost preoccupied with being a parody on Oscar bait, not a single emotion feels genuine or earned.

The Starling’ lacks an edge and an interesting take on its themes, content with being sappy and middle of the road. Too bad, because the cast seemed up for it.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Reviewed on September 15, 2021 at Toronto International Film Festival. Rating: M. Running time: 102 min. 

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of a Boies / Schiller Film Group, Culmination Productions, Entertainment One, Goldenlight Films & Limelight production. Producers: Theodore Melfi (p.g.a.), Chris Parker, Kim Quinn, Dylan Sellers (p.g.a.). Executive producers: David Boies, Alex Dong, Zev Foreman, Jen Gorton, Gabby Revilla Lugo, Zack Schiller & Tyler Zacharia. 

CREW: Director: Theodore Melfi. Writer: Matt Harris. Editing: Matthew Friedman & Peter Teschner. Music: Benjamin Wallfisch. Cinematography: Lawrence Sher.

CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Laura Harrier, Rosalind Chao, Kim Quinn & Loretta Devine.

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