Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 15, 2019)
Now in her 70s, Diane Keaton seems to have become Hollywood’s go-to choice for comedies about older women. She takes another lead of this sort in 2019’s Poms.
Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Martha (Keaton) moves to a retirement community as she awaits her death. Before long, she meets Sheryl (Jacki Weaver), her rambunctious neighbor.
Initially the reserved Martha dislikes the extroverted Sheryl and avoids her, but eventually she accedes to her neighbor’s amiable overtures. This builds into a close friendship.
When she learns that Martha wanted to be a cheerleader as a young woman, Sheryl decides that they should form a squad at the retirement community. This leads to various adventures as the elderly woman attempt to recapture their youths.
Ick. I admit that I went into Poms with a pretty strong preconception that the film would offer maudlin feel-good nonsense without any cleverness, charm or wit.
And you know what? My predictions came true, as Poms offered predictable tripe.
I will say that the cast helps make this goop go down the gullet in a fairly painless manner. Though the material is way beneath actors of this caliber, they give it their all and never sneer at the lines and situations like they could – and probably should.
Make no mistake: Poms offers patronizing cheese of the highest order. Every “comedy about old folks” cliché you can imagine appears here, and the movie brings absolutely nothing fresh to the table.
As much as the inane jokes and trite developments make me groan, I might accept them more readily if Poms didn’t seem completely contrived. The story goes out of its way to set up situations for its characters, and nothing evolves in a natural manner.
That seems especially true for the Martha/Sheryl relationship at the film’s core. Poms sets up the pair as polar opposites, but they become pals awfully quickly, and for no logical reason other than the script demands it.
In addition, both Sheryl and Martha show odd personality variations that make no organic sense. One minute Sheryl will be a sassy rebel, and the next she acts like a timid little mouse.
Martha’s path to empowerment makes a bit more sense, but the cynical misanthrope integrates into the semi-fascistic retirement community and develops friendly bonds awfully quickly. In the real world, she would blend more slowly, but the 91-minute movie doesn’t have time for logic, I guess.
Like I said, the charming cast almost allows me to buy into Poms - but not quite. Burdened with too many contrived, predictable circumstances and too much lame humor about wacky old folks, this winds up as a problematic film.