A soppy, facile look at grief, “The Starling” finds its protagonist coping with the death of her infant daughter — and a marriage that has faltered in its aftermath — with the aid of a flapping metaphor.
Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) is a supermarket employee who has channeled her anguish over losing a child into compulsive snack-food stacking. Lilly’s husband, Jack (Chris O’Dowd), has been living in a psychiatric institution. And a starling has taken up residence by Lilly’s garden. It keeps swooping down and striking her in the head.
Starlings, explains a doctor named Larry Fine (Kevin Kline) — yes, like the Three Stooges, Lilly notes — are not easily scared away. Eventually, Lilly will learn that the bird is out of her control. She simply has to live with it.
To be fair, “The Starling,” directed in bland, undistinguished terms by Theodore Melfi (“Hidden Figures”), never suggests that mourning is as easy or rapid a process as coexisting with a bothersome yard guest. But it does, at nearly every turn, take shortcuts in portraying the messiness of acceptance. Larry is both a veterinarian and a former psychiatrist, a combination that allows Lilly to economize on office visits and the screenwriter, Matt Harris, to dispense unrelated bromides from one character. (Larry also commits what seems like an ethical violation by visiting Jack without Lilly’s knowledge.)
Blatant product placement, unconvincing bird effects and awful soundtrack selections all undermine a potentially wrenching, difficult premise with utter bogusness.
Rated PG-13. Grief and animal cruelty. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Watch on Netflix.
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