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Poms (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020


POMS (2019)

Starring Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Celia Weston, Rhea Perlman, Pam Grier, Bruce McGill, Alisha Boe, Charlie Tahan, Phyllis Somerville, Patricia French, Ginny MacColl, Carol Sutton, Alexandra Ficken, Dave Maldonado, Karen Beyer, Sharon Blackwood, Afemo Omilami, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Suehyla El-Attar, Jessica Roth, Angela Kronenberg and Annie Jacob.

Screenplay by Shane Atkinson.

Directed by Zara Hayes.

Distributed by STX Entertainment. 91 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Last year, Book Club showed Hollywood that there is a receptive audience for movies about women of a certain age.

Poms may very well slam that door back shut.

Poms is alternately cheesy, patronizing, unlikely, sappy, inconsequential, vaguely ageist, vaguely sexist and sometimes surprisingly cynical about its characters. (One of the characters’ husband’s death is played off as a cheap gag.) You’ll find yourself cringing much more often than you find yourself smiling. That’s not a good thing in what is being sold as a feel-good, life-affirming comedy.

Ironically, Poms shares one of the lead actresses from Book Club, playing a somewhat similar role. Diane Keaton plays Martha, the lead character here. She is a former schoolteacher who lived most of her whole life – 46 years – in the same New York apartment. When she finds that she has a probably-fatal disease and that she doesn’t want to die in some hospital, instead of hunkering down in her long-time home, she sells off almost all of her belongings and moves sight unseen to a huge furnished house in a suburban senior community in Georgia, of all places.

What, they don’t have senior communities in New York?

Martha is a city-dweller, a northerner, and someone who quite obviously dislikes and distrusts these communities. She doesn’t want to make new friends; in fact, she wants to be left alone. She chafes under the rules and the caste system of the place. She didn’t move there for medical reasons. She hides her illness until the point that it is impossible not to hide anymore.

So, why is she there again?

It seems that Martha has one deep, gnawing regret in her life. Due to her mother’s terminal illness when Martha was in high school, she never got the chance to live out her dream of becoming a cheerleader.

Say what?

Certainly Martha, who seems to have lived a full, substantial life, can find something a little less trivial to obsess about as she faces death. But, no, two of the very few things she brought down from New York are her old cheerleading outfit and a photograph of herself as a young teen in the same outfit.

What if she starts a cheerleading club, getting herself and some of her repressed new neighbors the chance to experience the thrill of cheering for no particular team?

Yeah, I can’t see that going wrong.

The queen bee of the development tries to block the cheerleading club, mostly because she is a spiteful mean girl, but she does give the excuse that it would be impossible to get insurance to cover it because one of these elderly ladies could break their hip while doing this kind of extreme exercise. (Sorry, not to sound ageist, but that’s not a totally unreasonable concern.)

I know that Poms is trying to be inspirational, showing you are never too old to follow your dream. I just wish they had not picked such a superficial dream. Yeah, sure, these women can put on short skirts and pom poms and jump around as much as they’d like – but to what end? So that they can prove they can do it to the nubile-but-bitchy real-life cheerleaders?

And honestly, they are being graded on a curve here. They are in no way as good at cheering as the teen girls who they end up competing against in a local cheering competition. (They sign up in the 18+ age category, ha ha.) Of course, they aren’t as good as the kids, just like a 70-year-old basketball player is probably not going to win one-on-one against a 17-year-old. It’s not a sin to age, and when you age you lose some of your physical abilities. It’s nature, not discrimination.

They only get any audience love at all is because they are some cute little grannies shaking their pom poms. Honestly, had the film picked a more serious but similar dream for them – let’s say dancing – the movie would have been a lot easier to embrace.

Poms also has the more basic problem that it simply does not share the star-power of Book Club, which made it easier to overlook some of the little flaws in the earlier film. Don’t get me wrong, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, Celia Weston and Phyllis Somerville are all fine actresses and it’s nice seeing them getting substantial roles in a Hollywood project at this point in their lives and careers. It’s just that they are not going to make anyone forget Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: August 6, 2019.

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