Poms (2019)
Two and Half Stars

Hollywood has long handled the monumental transitions of growing up and growing old with such clumsiness, filmmakers may as well be wearing those foam #1 gloves.  Why this is so has plagued me for years, but I think I finally have some insight:  We look at the young and the elderly with the same underlying anxiety, but for different reasons.  Children inspire nervous hope for what they might become.  Old people provide an unflinching glimpse of what we might become.  The flip side is that while the bookend years of our lives can be fraught with underrated difficulties, they also brim with unheralded joy and discovery.  This gives the human experience a poetic bittersweetness that is geometric in scope.

It’s also not terribly marketable, so that’s why we get movies about teens humping pies and crotchety old men talking about schlongs and boobies.  Cheap humor is both easy and disposable, and that’s exactly what you get with Poms.  Sure, it has a well-meaning message about how the third act of our lives can brim with new meaning and purpose.  Unfortunately, all that gets lost in a junk drawer of movie clichés, stale gags, and clunky, one dimensional writing.

Martha (Diane Keaton) is a post-retirement woman living a drab existence in midtown Manhattan.  Faced with impending illness, she hawks her belongings in an estate sale.  Martha is withdrawn and curt as she loads what little she has into a Subaru and heads to a Georgia retirement home.  “I’ve come here to die,” she plainly informs her stunned greeters.  One of those vacuously friendly people is Vicki (Celia Weston), the community’s social butterfly, whose sunny Georgia drawl conceals the fact that she’s a real bitch.  Vicki tours Martha around the facility, and shows off its vibrant inhabitants.  She also delivers a membership requirement:  To live in this high-end Shady Pines, you have to either join a club or start your own.

Unimpressed with the existing clubs, Martha decides to pursue a childhood interest and inaugurate her own cheer squad.  As you might guess, such a team requires a few characters who are so standard issue, they may as well be built out of a kit:  We get the ever-loyal best friend (Jacki Weaver), the wallflower ready to bloom (Rhea Perlman), the black woman (Pam Grier),  the redhead (Patricia French), and the young girl who inspires the women to try some new moves (Alisha Boe).  Do they also inspire her to be a better version of herself?  You bet your Bisquick they do!  Trouble brews when Vicki goes full Nurse Ratchet and decides to keep the dance team out of a crucial dance competition.

So, it’s pretty much your standard blend of The Fully Monty, The Golden Girls, and Bring It On.   (Bring On The Full Golden Monty?  That just sounds…gross, actually.)  Diane Keaton is one our greatest actresses, and she deserves better material.  Just imagine it:  A movie, starring her, that says something special about who we are and where our aging society might be headed.  And it makes us laugh along the way.  Alas, nope.  We can’t have nice things.  Instead, Poms goes straight for worn-out training montages and tepid sitcom jokes.  Someday, we’ll get a movie that handles growing older with more dramatic finesse and sharper humor.  It just won’t be today.

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Author: Todd Wofford

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Two and Half Stars

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