Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd star in this “heartwarming comedy” about a couple dealing with the death of their baby that’s exactly as uplifting and funny as it sounds. After her suicidal husband is institutionalised, Lilly is left alone to deal with their empty home. Let the hilarity begin!
To say this movie is misjudged is one understatement; that neither McCarthy nor O’Dowd have the emotional range required of the premise is another. In fact, the decision by several big-name actors to use this subject matter for an easy pay cheque is deeply offensive. The same is true of a script that considers the best thing for a film about cot death to be lots of scenes where Melissa McCarthy falls over.
Lilly finds time between pratfalls to see a psychiatrist (Kevin Kline) who left the profession to become a vet. “It’s an easy explanation,” he assures us, and then never mentions it again. His supposedly hilarious quirks include drinking when operating on small animals and treating Lilly and pets at the same time. The film stops just short of having him discuss her dead baby with his hand up a dog’s behind, but is not above making a puppy hump her leg and a bird defecate on her lawn for would-be cheap laughs.
The titular starling that keeps pestering Lilly in her garden represents her husband, as Kline’s character tells us. It is bizarre for a movie without subtext to be built around a piece of symbolism, though admittedly no more bizarre than having a film about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome feature Melissa McCarthy wearing a football helmet while talking to a CGI bird.
As narratively incoherent as it is emotionally illiterate, the story sees Lilly trade all her furniture for a single armchair that a couple happened to be carrying past her house. Meanwhile she has to travel for an hour to visit her husband because she lives in a huge property, despite stacking shelves in a supermarket, where her boss routinely scolds her as though unaware of her situation.
Her colleagues are played by Santa Clarita Diet’s Skyler Gisondo and Timothy Olyphant, who join forces with the Bridesmaids co-stars to make viewers wish they were watching either of those or literally anything else. The Starling is sickening not just for its sappiness but also its grotesquery, unfolding like a Hallmark version of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist. Between this and Thunder Force, it seems the only thing that can save viewers from awful Melissa McCarthy movies on Netflix would be the return of Sean Spicer.
The Starling is released on Netflix on 24th September 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Starling here: