Toronto Film Festival
When Melissa McCarthy and director Ted Melfi started production on “The Starling” in 2019, the pandemic wasn’t even on the world’s radar. Fast-forward two years, and life as we know it has…
When Melissa McCarthy and director Ted Melfi started production on “The Starling” in 2019, the pandemic wasn’t even on the world’s radar. Fast-forward two years, and life as we know it has forever changed — and so has the movie business.
But, according to McCarthy and Melfi, “The Starling” is more relevant than ever, during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t know anyone on the planet in the last year-and-a-half that hasn’t said, ‘We’ll be good again, right?’ That’s the million dollar question from the last year-and-a-half that we’re still asking,” McCarthy said at Variety‘s TIFF Studio presented by Canada Goose. Their film explores these themes of loss, isolation, love and the idea that “you can come back to joy and to hope,” the actresses added.
“I choose to make films that are hopeful,” Melfi said. “I think we have a responsibility as filmmakers to present good stuff in the world and to put hope out into the world.”
“The Starling” marks a reunion for McCarthy and Melfi, who first worked together in 2014 on “St. Vincent,” also with Chris O’Dowd, who co-stars with McCarthy as the film’s central couple, who is grieving with the loss of their newborn child. McCarthy’s character, Lilly, has to adjust to her new life, juggling her husband’s struggles to move forward, not to mention a feisty bird — the titular starling — that has taken over her garden.
The project had been kicking around town for quite some time, after the script landed on the Blacklist in 2005 by screenwriter, Matt Harris. But Melfi’s version of the film swapped the gender roles from the original script, putting the male lead (O’Dowd) through intensive therapy, which was originally written for the female character.
McCarthy hopes the film helps to normalize men being open about their mental health.
“Whatever this femininity [or] masculinity is, it’s all such bullshit, respectfully,” McCarthy said. “To be an adult, whatever your gender is, you have to be willing to know there are times when you’re going to be broken or times when you’re the strong one…I always think it must be really tough for men because you’re not supposed to show anything or cry.”
Both Melfi and McCarthy lamented over not being able to attend TIFF in-person to experience the film with a live audience. The Oscar-nominated pair expressed their hopes for the film industry to welcome back theatergoing in full force, in addition to streaming content from the comfort of home, like on Netflix.
“Sitting in a movie theater and smelling your neighbor’s popcorn, hearing them sniffle, hearing them laugh, is essential to art,” Melfi said. “Netflix is doing great stuff. Netflix is making great movies that no one else will make. So, they can live in two worlds. I think that’s what needs to happen because [we] want to get out and they want to be together.”
“The Starling” begins its limited release on Sept. 17, and launches on Netflix on Sept. 24.