Thursday, June 20, 2024

She's old but don't mess with her


Jane Squibb,  the 94 year old actress who made a big-screen mark in Alexander Payne's 2013 film Nebraska, lands a starring role in Thelma, a movie centered on characters lucky enough to live into their 90s.  
   Although the movie begins with a serious problem (older people being bilked by unscrupulous phone callers), director Josh Margolin veers off into a Los Angeles-based caper comedy in which Squibb’s Thelma takes matters into her own hands. She pursues the swindler. 
   To conduct her search, Thelma commandeers a scooter — really a motorized wheelchair — from a friend  (Richard Roundtree) who resides in an assisted living facility. Roundtree’s Ben grudgingly joins Thelma on her quest. 
     Margolin jams the movie’s aging stars into a scenario in which they battle their infirmities while heading toward the confrontation that serves as the movie’s climax and provides a late-picture role for Malcolm McDowell. The screenplay also contrives to put a gun in Thelma’s hands.
    Fred Hechinger plays Thelma's feckless grandson, a young man in need of an ego boost. Parker Posey signs on as Thelma's daughter with Clark Gregg playing her son-in-law.
    The scam begins when Thelma receives a phone call saying that her grandson has been in a terrible automobile accident and needs $10,000 for a lawyer. In a panic, she  mails the money to a post office box. 
     Thelma makes a few nods toward the grief of losing family and friends as old age encroaches. Margolin also plays with action movie tropes, but mostly the movie proceeds as a lightweight trifle built around two strong performances that feel more credible than the plot. 
     In sum: three cheers for the plucky, engaging Squibb and for the dignified and still charismatic Roundtree. Two for the rest of the movie. Thelma marks Roundtree's last big-screen performance. The actor died in 2023.

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