Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons in The Meddler.

Susan Sarandon gets the fun vehicle she deserves with The Meddler, a fine directorial effort from Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend at the End of the World), who also wrote the clever and sweet screenplay.

Sarandon plays Marnie, a New Jersey widow who has moved to Los Angeles to be near her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), a screenwriter dealing with a breakup. Marnie has a bunch of money and a lot of time on her hands, so she calls her daughter constantly, brings her bagels—and basically drives her crazy. When Lori heads back east to shoot a pilot, Marnie winds up befriending Lori’s friends and making a few new ones, including Zipper (J.K. Simmons) and his chickens.

Sarandon takes what could be a clichéd character and makes her endearing, giving Marnie a genuine warmness that makes her a welcomed “meddler” rather than a nuisance.

Byrne disappears for a good chunk of the movie, but when she’s around, she and Sarandon have convincing mother-daughter chemistry. Simmons—normally the purveyor of brash, harsh and funny characters—gets to show off his soft side; Zipper is a real winner.

It’s a cute movie that isn’t too cute, and a must for Sarandon fans. Cecily Strong, Lucy Punch and Michael McKean have small but memorable roles.

The Meddler opens Friday, May 20, at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).