Melissa McCarthy’s New Netflix Movie The Starling Has Screened, And The First Reviews Are Brutal

Melissa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd in The Starling

Though the Covid-19 pandemic continues, Melissa McCarthy has already had a film release this year, Thunder Force (for which the reviews were… not so positive). Now she’s back on the big screen, this time for the comedy-drama The Starling, before the movie eventually lands on Netflix. In it she co-stars with Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Laura Harrier, and Loretta Devine. The drama features McCarthy and O’Dowd as Lilly and Jack, a married couple who lose their baby, which leads Jack to head off to deal with his grief while Lilly remains in the "real" world, dealing with her own guilt. As if Lilly's troubles weren't bad enough, a starling begins to harass her and she becomes comically obsessed with trying to kill it. The movie was directed by Theodore Melif (Hidden Figures) and written by Matt Harris.

The comedy-drama flick will have a limited theatrical release tomorrow, September 17, and will be available to stream on Netflix next Friday, September 24. But The Starling just had its world premiere at TIFF, and the response from critics so far has been… unfavorable, to say the least. Why don’t we take a look?

While our own review hasn't been released yet, the critical response is looking pretty brutal so far. Caryn James from The Hollywood Reporter thought McCarthy, O’Dowd, and Kline deserve way better than this “misfire.” James criticized everything from the horrible script, the trite and predictable storyline, to the abundance of cliches. She also noted that there are too many underused actors, giving Diggs and Olyphant as examples. Overall, James noted:

With a predictable trajectory and cringeworthy metaphors, The Starling is so slushily sentimental it makes the typical tearjerker look like a noir. Despite the lived-in performances from its three high-profile stars, this attempt at heartfelt drama is hopelessly by-the-numbers.

Elizabeth Weitzman of The Wrap also criticized the “shallow” script by Harris. She thought O’Dowd was best at actually bringing emotion to his character when the dialogue was so constricting, but she noted that the rest of the characters did the best they could, as they had more terrible writing to trudge through. Weitzman also commented on the terrible metaphors and the too-familiar aspect of The Starling, noting overall:

Viewers may be surprised to find they’ve happened upon a movie that would feel far more at home on the Hallmark Channel.

See, I told you critics were picking this movie apart. Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian considers The Starling a complete waste of everyone’s time. He criticized the under-utilized side characters like Olyphant, a comment we saw above. He was also disappointed with the clunkily obvious metaphors and the lack of common sense in the plot, noting overall:

This bizarre sentimental dramedy is fatuous and phoney in every particular: a quite extraordinary festival of gibberish. Every implausible scene, every unconvincing character, every contrived dollop of symbolism, every toe-curlingly misjudged and unearned emotional climax seems as if it has been concocted in some secret bio-warfare lab for assaulting your mind with pure, toxic nonsense.

While Guy Lodge from Variety complemented McCarthy’s always “reliably buoyant charisma” in her role, he argued that it’s not enough to make The Starling a good movie. Like previous critics, he considered the dramedy too predictable and full of overqualified actors who are too under-utilized. Lodge also commented on the corny and cringe-worthy dialogue that didn’t demand much from the great cast, noting:

The Starling’s emotional arcs are as narratively complete as they are psychologically dashed-off.

While Lodge thought McCarthy had charisma, Carla Meyer from The San Francisco Chronicle thought the actress was actually pretty out of touch with her character, noting that each moment of physical comedy is cringey and tortured. Meyer did comment that the third act of the movie was a little more enjoyable, but not enough to make it a good film. She also criticized the uneven acting and the soundtrack, while also arguing that while O’Dowd wasn’t given enough to work with, McCarthy was given too much at once. Meyer was pretty disappointed with the flick, noting:

The fast-forward button was made for The Starling.

Well, that was... bleak. While the critical response of the Melissa McCarthy-led flick has been pretty brutal so far, you might actually enjoy the comedy-drama. You'll be able to form your own opinion soon enough, as the film releases in select theaters tomorrow, September 17, and on Netflix next Friday, September 24. You can also check out what else is coming to Netflix this year with our release guide.

Sydney Skubic