By Kim Hughes
A dynamite ensemble cast and a truckload of heart keep the sentimental new comedy POMS from crumbling beneath multiple well-thumbed clichés including (but not limited to) plucky underdogs can triumph, friends are really important and life is short so live it fully.
POMS opens with irascible Martha (Diane Keaton) emptying the contents of her long-time apartment via an estate sale. Probing questions from a bargain-hunter (and a helpful voice-over) alert us to the knowledge that Martha’s downsizing and eventual relocation isn’t entirely elective or happy-making.
At Sun Springs retirement community in Georgia, Martha greets the perennially smiling and waving, golf-cart-riding residents with a palpable mix of disdain and disbelief. Wisely so it turns out, at least with respect to Vicki (Celia Weston), the would-be welcoming committee lead who swiftly morphs into Martha’s nemesis. Subsequent encounters, where Vicki forces underlings to take sides, carry shades of everything from Bad Moms to Heathers, but a good trope is a good trope and anyway, the stage is set for mighty comeuppance.
Not even nasty Vicki can dampen the va-va-voom sizzle of Sheryl (Jacki Weaver), Martha’s minx-like new next-door neighrbour and soon-to-be BFF at Sun Springs, whose zest for life counters Martha’s dour disposition at every turn. A series of revelations — and need of a plot accelerant — prompts Martha and Sheryl to launch a Sun Springs cheerleading team. Arguably the film’s best sequence (though one it feels we have seen before elsewhere) occurs as Martha and Sheryl hold tryouts for their squad.
Peppy if creaking old gals including Pam Grier, Patricia French, and Phyllis Somerville strut their funky stuff; a newly liberated Rhea Perlman will join later. What follows are the predicable yet undeniably charming practice sessions, inevitable pratfalls, old-age jokes, pep talks and the eventual you-go-girl! Competition against much-younger women.
POMS makes many relevant if not revelatory points, smartly aligning teenage obstacles and humiliations with those suffered in autumn years. This life thing just never gets easy, the film seems to say.
A fun soundtrack, ranging from the Go-Go’s to Portugal. The Man to Diana Ross keep things frothy, and there is marvelous chemistry between Keaton and Weaver who refuse to bend to the limits of the material, instead drawing their performances in vivid strokes. There is also a surprisingly bittersweet ending that is much darker than might be expected from a lightweight comedy. POMS is actually much better than its trailer suggests. Sometimes that’s enough.
POMS. Directed by Zara Hayes. Starring Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier and Rhea Perlman. Opens wide May 10.