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TIFF Movie Review: The Starling

People experience grief in different ways, making it almost impossible to state that a movie doesn’t ring true in its portrayal of people facing up to the loss of a loved one. Claiming that an actor’s behavior or specific decisions in regards to characterization feel false is a slippery slope towards policing the ways in which real people grieve — suggesting that if they don’t fall into an easily recognizable pit of sadness, they’re a bad person, with quasi-sociopathic tendencies. It takes a monumentally misjudged film to put these feelings to one side, but one has arrived in the shape of “The Starling,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival prior to its debut on Netflix.

Inside the film from Theodore Melfi, the director’s long awaited follow-up to the crowd pleasing “Hidden Figures,” there is a well-observed drama about the emotional strains losing a child can force upon a relationship and an individual. Unfortunately, any heartfelt observations the film has are buried under layers of endless quirk, this storyline taking a back seat to a pratfall-heavy slapstick comedy in which Melissa McCarthy goes to war with a bird that’s becoming increasingly territorial in her garden. As the actress keeps going head to head with the fakest-looking CGI bird you’ve ever seen in your life, whatever promise the rest of the film has is squandered. It feels like a Frankenstein’s Monster of two separate screenplays forcibly stitched together, working only to the detriment of both — the most tonally jarring film I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through in quite some time.

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