Movie Review – Poms

by Paul Preston
The Movie Guys

On, when I write or talk about a movie I didn’t care for, it’s rarely from a place of straight vitriol. Naturally, there are a few times when a movie has been so horrendously lazy or inept that I get angry, but most of the time at the end of an underwhelming movie, I’m simply left emotionLESS. Then, and I’ve described this process before, I have to take a CSI approach to determining why I didn’t like it. Again, sometimes you know – “I’m having an awful time and I wish this was over”. But sometimes a movie will leave me with a neutral feeling, completely unmoved and I have to know why. That’s when I go all William Peterson on the movie, going back and exploring what the film did or didn’t do to bring me to that place as opposed to a place of excitement, hilarity or terror that the movie was going for.

Turns out I have to do that for movies I liked as well because I’ll be damned if I didn’t come out of Poms crying.

I’m not proud. By all accounts and merely by watching the trailer, Poms looks like a by-the-numbers old-people-in-outrageous-situations movie. It looked to have echoes of the Going in Style remake (“look at those wacky old people robbing a bank!” or Book Club (“look at those wacky old people turned on by Fifty Shades of Grey!). This was “look at those wacky old people trying to be cheerleaders!”, no way it would have an effect. It would be popular (if the reviews are any indication) to dump on Poms. But, there I was, moved. Can’t deny it.

My initial thought is that the casting of Diane Keaton was the movie’s biggest win. Keaton plays Martha, a woman struggling with cancer who moves into a retirement community (seemingly, to run out the rest of her time on Earth). After her troublemaking neighbor (Jacki Weaver) latches onto Martha, the two set out to start a cheerleading squad in their community. What you would imagine happening then does – the retirement community heads object, they hold tryouts and a parade of crazies show up, they face off against teenagers, etc.

In the middle of it all, Keaton gives a real, grounded performance that’s typical of her 40+ year career. I wanted things to go well for Martha and the movie, amidst all the antics, kept reminding me that I should. It does it with old tropes about sticking together, friendship and doing what you love, but this cast of veteran comic actors do better than the material.

So, who are we talking about? I was most excited to see Rhea Perlman, who works steadily on TV but doesn’t make as many movies. Perlman, of course, was part of the legendary Cheers ensemble and absolutely killed her one liners week after week. She has a hilarious introduction in Poms and then kind of blends into the ensemble but it’s always good to see her. Pam Grier and Phyllis Somerville play opposite sides of the approval storyline. Grier’s husband is excited to get a date with a cheerleader as he watches his wife get sexy again and Somerville is saddled with the overprotective son who refuses to let his mom get involved in all the cheerleading shenanigans.

Are the critics right? Sure, this is well-worn ground for a comedy and there are no laughs quite the size of the ones in Long Shot, but you wouldn’t know that Poms was ineffective by the crowd I saw it with. Granted, they were demographically on point for a movie like this, but they went bananas for it. Thing is, they won’t go out to the movies in the droves that will go to see Detective Pikachu, so Poms has no shot of getting box office numbers on its side. So, no critical or monetary success, but I cried, dammit!

And despite my labeling Keaton as grounded, she’s not all drama. Her disdain for the senior living lifestyle provides some laugh-getting sighs and zingers that she delivers effortlessly. Lastly, I haven’t seen Jacki Weaver straight cut it up in a movie before. She’s a solid character actress and has a pair of Oscar nominations to show for it, but as Martha’s neighbor Sheryl, she’s just the shot in the arm Keaton’s character needs to remind her she should be living her life and not just riding it out until her funeral. If you can cut the crap and enjoy yourself as much as Jacki Weaver does during this movie, you’re in for a good time.
Directed by: Zara Hayes
Release Date: May 10, 2019
Run Time: 91 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Country: UK/USA
Distributor: STX Films



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