POMS

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Zara Hayes

Stars: Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Celia Weston, Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, Alisha Boe, Charlie Tahan, Bruce McGill, Phyllis Somerville, Patricia French, Carol Sutton, David Maldonado .

A geriatric Bring It On?

Pam Grier, Diane Keaton, Patricia French, Rhea Perlman, Phyllis Somerville, Carol Sutton, Jacki Weaver, and Ginny MacColl in Poms (2019)

Obviously if Poms is anything to go on there is a dearth of good roles for women of a certain age in Hollywood.

After Martha (Diane Keaton, from Book Club, etc) is diagnosed with a terminal illness she decides to sell up her house and possessions and move to the Sun Springs Active Retirement Community in Georgia. Wanting to be left alone and wallow in the regrets of her past, Martha instead finds herself befriended by her overbearing and extroverted neighbour Sheryl (our very own Jacki Weaver, from Animal Kingdom, etc) who wants to involve her in the various activities of the community.

Martha used to be a cheerleader back in high school and she proposes that this group of senior citizens form a cheerleading squad despite the risk of broken limbs and other serious injuries. Rather than the gymnastic style of cheerleading of today’s school kids, these older folk prefer to do it old school, with a choreographed routine and pom poms. It is a form of exercise and an activity that should keep them fit and healthy and active.

And not everyone inside the community is happy to see these elderly cheerleaders. Vicki (Celia Weston), the power-hungry and small minded busybody who controls the retirement community, tells Martha that she needs at least eight members in order to form her club. Thus begins the search for eight similarly inclined seniors. Cue the montage sequence.

But their ambition is far greater than their ability. And despite humiliating themselves in front of a high school audience, the ladies decide to enter a cheer leading competition. They enlist the help of Chloe (Alisha Boe, from 13 Reasons Why, etc), a high school cheerleader, to help them perfect their routine.

I have nothing against the concept of films showing older people refusing to act their age. And while the concept here is a little unusual it makes for a change from forming book clubs, knitting quilts or playing board games and having tea and discussions, or even going in style by robbing banks. The problem is what first time writer Shane Atkinson and first-time director Zaya Hayes, who comes from a background in documentary filmmaking, have done with the material. Their lack of experience with both comedy and narrative storytelling is telling. Hayes’ direction is laboured and pedestrian, and the film is tonally uneven. Much of the attempts at humour fall flat.

The one-dimensional characters are basically a collection of stereotypes and defined by their cliched quirks. Novice director Hayes has certainly assembled a strong cast to bring the underwritten characters to life. They look like they enjoyed themselves.

Keaton’s Martha is dying of cancer and desperately wants this chance to perform, Weaver is the overbearing neighbour who becomes her best friend. Keaton does what she does best, playing the cute but ditzy neurotic, but her performance is a bit more restrained and understated here. Weaver brings plenty of irresistible energy and brassy style to her role as the eternally upbeat Sheryl and comes close to stealing the movie.

The cast also includes Rhea Perlman (from Cheers, etc) and Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, etc). And the main male characters here are not treated very well either. Charlie Tahan plays Weaver’s nerdy grandson Ben, who is a little ashamed to be living in a retirement community with his doting grandmother, but he eventually emerges from his shell and finds love, while Bruce McGill (from tv series Rizzoli & Isles, etc) plays Carl, the henpecked chief of security.

Poms is a bittersweet, life affirming but often manipulative tale that somehow misses the mark. The film is a heartfelt ode to female friendship, feminism, and to grey power and empowerment that tells us that age should not be a barrier to living life to the fullest. However, I just wish that the positive message had been delivered in a stronger package than this lacklustre offering.

Two rah-rah’s from me.

★★

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