Release Date(s)2019 (August 6, 2019)
Studio(s)Entertainment One/STX Entertainment (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: F
Poms is the kind of film that wants to send out messages of self-empowerment and sisterhood but instead coasts on clichés and a lackluster script that even a cast of veteran female actors can’t liven up.
Cancer patient Martha (Diane Keaton), having cancelled all her chemotherapy appointments and having her own estate sale, drives to a retirement community in Georgia where she intends to end her days. “I’m here to die,” she announces to a reception committee headed by Vicki (Celia Weston). Without much in the way of family or friends, Diane is initially put off by the relentless cheeriness of the community but gradually befriends neighbor Sheryl (Jacki Weaver), who urges her to get involved in the activities and clubs. But Diane has no interest in them.
When Sheryl notices an old cheerleading uniform among Diane’s things, it sparks an idea. Why not start a cheerleading squad? They put a notice in the community newspaper announcing auditions and get a few applicants, among them Alice (Rhea Perlman), who begins to flourish after the death of her controlling husband, and Olive (Pam Grier), whose husband likes to see her in her exercise clothes. Other applicants include Helen (Phyllis Somerville), Evelyn (Ginny MacColl), and Phyllis (Patricia French). All are senior citizens with a myriad physical problems. Logistical and bureaucratic obstacles arise, leading the ladies to do whatever it takes to get their club approved.
Director and co-writer Zara Hayes has assembled a fine cast but has wasted them in this “Let’s put on a show” comedy, with jokes centered on older women’s desire to have fun and the sickness and disabilities that often prevent this. Martha changes her mind about dying. Death is inevitable, but she wants to go out whooping it up rather than sitting alone in her room. She’s found new friends and something to enjoy again.
Ms. Keaton does her best with the material but cannot make Martha more than a plot device. We never learn, for example, why she never married, why she stopped her chemotherapy treatments, or why she wants to die.
Ms. Perlman is slyly funny as a wallflower with a twinkle in her eye. She puts up with a domineering husband who controls her every move, but when he passes away, it’s as if the doors are flung open and she’s now free to be her own person. Ms. Perlman gives Alice renewed fire, which allows her to embrace new experiences and take risks.
Ms. Weston’s Vicki is the resident villain, the primary obstacle in the way of Martha and friends having fun. Vicki’s constant smile conveys the feeling that older women must be protected from themselves. She’s benevolently unkind.
Poms is more like a TV movie than a theatrical film. It has a simple plot with easy resolutions, and it masks the problems of aging with gags, an energetic cheerleading number, and star power. It never loses its sense of contrivance – “How can we get laughs by putting older women in a fish-out-of-water story?”
With opportunities for older women in such films as The Wife, Book Club, The Queen, and Florence Foster Jenkins, it’s a pity that the bar in Poms, rated PG-13, is set so low.
The Blu-ray, featuring 1080p resolution, is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The film was shot digitally, and details are sharp throughout. Most scenes are brightly lit indoors or filmed in sunlight. The Georgia retirement community features wide paths, colorful flowers, verdant shrubbery, and what seems to be acres and acres of neatly mowed lawns. The cheerleading uniforms are presented in bold primary colors, often enhanced by light-reflecting sequins. The bright colors inside Sheryl’s house establish a cheery tone and serve as a visual reinforcement of her extroverted nature.
Audio is English 5.1 DTS-High Definition Master. There are no particular scenes that stand out in terms of sound since the film is a comedy that depends largely on dialogue, which is distinct throughout. “The Big Number” is not that big by movie standards but allows the ladies to be reasonably in sync with one another. The musical selections accompanying the tryouts are upbeat and offer opportunities to show the strengths and limitations of the aspirants. They include Bitter With the Sweet (Carole King), Born to Bossa (Dick Walter), Sway (Julie London), I’m Every Woman (Chaka Khan), We Got the Beat (The Go-Go’s), and I’m Coming Out (Diana Ross). These tunes give the film a youthful, energetic sound. English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are an option. There are also Spanish subtitles.
This 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack includes a Digital Code on a paper insert found within the packaging. There are no bonus features on this Region A release and the film’s running time is 1 hour, 31 minutes.
– Dennis Seuling