It’s interesting how enjoyment of a movie or show can be influence by those we watch with.
For example, I saw “Poms” with some girlfriends last week, and one of my longtime friends kept hooting with laughter. Her laughter was downright infectious, as the saying goes, and I found myself laughing again and again.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t have found moments of enjoyment seeing the film with someone less enthused, but there’s something wonderful about finding camaraderie in a shared experience. After all, isn’t that part of the reason we go see films in theaters anyway?
“Poms” stars Diane Keaton as Martha, an older woman who checks into a retirement community after deciding to forego treatment for a cancer diagnosis. Martha doesn’t have a husband or children that will mourn her when she’s gone. She’s alone.
The film even begins with Martha selling off her small apartment’s belongings. She’s leaving 46 years of memories and sentimentality behind as she packs up essentials. The condo at the retirement community is furnished, and she doesn’t need a lot of possessions to die, right?
Once Martha arrives at the Sun Springs community, she realizes nothing is going to be quite so simple. Community members are required to be on one of 100 different clubs — or start their own. Her neighbor, Sheryl (Jacki Weaver) is a wannabe nymphomaniac. A lack of eligible erections cuts down on her action pretty drastically, though. In lieu of a male companion, she makes Martha her new favorite person. It’s a bumpy friendship.
The two decide to create a cheerleading club, which brings in an assortment of women from the community, including Olive (Pam Grier) and Alice (Rhea Perlman).
What follows is a comedy of errors, but I’ll give you the quick version. The women put together a routine, try to perform at a high school pep rally, blackmail a high school cheerleader, Chloe (Alisha Boe), into coaching them and decide to compete in a national cheerleading competition.
I’m trying to figure out where to go from here. As a movie patron seeing a fluffy movie with her girlfriends, “Poms” is cute. It’s fluffy, kind of lighthearted and has a lot of moments that might make you chuckle. My friends and I realized I had probably glimpsed my future when I saw how uninterested Martha was in being a cheerful member of Sun Springs. (I’m not cheerful, and I don’t make friends well. My idea of retiring is a private home with a lot of books and a well-stocked wine cellar. And a delivery service that will restock both weekly.)
There are moments we cheer for, no pun intended. When we first meet Alice, she has a domineering husband who refuses to give her permission to be on the cheer squad. His untimely death clears the way for her to be free to do what she wants, including decorating her home the way she wants. And then there’s Helen (Phyllis Somerville), whose son controls her purse strings and her movements. He gets what’s coming to him, too.
As a movie critic, “Poms” has a few problems that are pretty glaring.
Somehow, Keaton has become an actress who keeps being cast — or is choosing — roles where she’s the equivalent of a Hallmark Channel leading lady. Look at her some of credits of the last few years, according to IMDB:
2018’s “Book Club”: A film about older women who read a smutty book.
2017’s “Hampstead”: She’s an American widow who finds unexpected love.
2014’s “5 Flights Up”: A longtime couple must deal with personal and real-estate issues when they decide to move.
2014’s “And So It Goes:” A rom-com with the grandfatherly Michael Douglas.
2008’s “Smother”: She’s a suffocating mother who moves in with her son and his wife.
I could go on. I think the trend began with 2003’s “Something’s Gotta Give,” when Keaton played a love interest for Jack Nicholson. This was the storyline: “a swinger on the cusp of being a senior citizen with a taste for young women falls in love with an accomplished woman closer to his own age.” I saw the film once and remember part of Keaton’s storyline was her love affair with a much younger man, played by Keanu Reeves.
Keaton is 73 years old and an Oscar winner, and yet somehow her roles have become that of the grandmother or leading lady in a senior citizen romantic comedy. Helen Mirren, who is also a 73-year-old Oscar winner, is playing prominent roles in dramas, action films and horror movies. (They aren’t all good, but she’s holding her own.)
“Poms” capitalizes on every old-person trope there is. One of the cheerleaders falls down and breaks something. During rehearsal, they put together a list of their ailments that include things like knee replacements and other ailments. Again and again, age is used as a punchline.
Now, granted, it’s a film about elderly cheerleaders. Instead of focusing on the cheerleaders, the film makes reference to their age again and again. Sheryl takes Martha to a funeral for the food, and comments there are lot of funerals for them to go to. There really are only so many old-people jokes you can make.
Instead of focusing on the friendship between these women, the film rushes through rehearsal montages and jokes. The film’s running time is only 91 minutes, which is actually pretty short for a film these days. Even children’s movies run longer. While my girlfriends and I were able to get home at a decent time the other night because of it, the shorter running time really cuts down on the character development of the film.
There’s a message about perseverance and such, but “Poms” is basically a senior citizen version of an after-school special. There are likable characters, lessons that must be learned and a story that wraps up neatly. It’s a cute film, but it’s also completely forgettable and is just one more bad choice in Keaton’s growing list of films that have done her wrong.