By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –
Martha (Diane Keaton) is a schoolteacher moving to a retirement community following a cancer diagnosis. Her cynical nature immediately clashes with the culture of the community, and when she finds out that she must join a club there, she and her neighbor decide to open a cheerleading club. Martha was denied a chance to join the cheerleaders in school, so she sees it as a last chance to fulfill one of her life’s goals.
If that synopsis didn’t put you to sleep already, this Toast surly will. The Toast is the section of Movieboozer reviews where we’re supposed to write something positive about the movie, no matter how trivial. Well here goes; I laughed a few times in the movie. I am not ready to say that I laughed at funny jokes, as the oxygen to my brain was so deprived that I chalk it up to my last gasps for sustenance before the darkness of oblivion took hold.
A prayer before dying…
Recently actress Anjelica Houston made headlines for her comments directly citing this film to make a point about why she doesn’t appear in more features. Her point being that she’d rather take film roles that challenge her, even if it limits the number of total opportunities she is given. This is a very important point to make that was mis-applied by the media as a whole as a slam against the actresses appearing in Poms. I don’t think Houston truly intended to be hurtful to Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, or anyone else in the film. The reports inspired some truly strong retorts from some of the cast.
“Bitches get stitches”- Diane Keaton on Huston (source unconfirmed)
The truth is the entire cast does their utmost with the material they are given, and it isn’t their fault that the material happens to be insultingly weak. The truth is, older women actors are often faced with extremely limited casting opportunities. Poms likely paid the bills for a good number of underrepresented people. And it is shameful that the film industry imposes these discriminatory practices on its pool of performers. The odious and malicious nature of this practice is where the majority of my review will focus.
Poms is far from the first film to crassly shovel out a calculated, mediocre story with familiar to attempt to counter-program against a big budget blockbuster. In the last decade, the rising trend of broadly focused age-based comedies have emerged as one of the most devious subgenres, which I call “Eldersploitation”. These films bring in a cavalcade of stars seen by casting agents as “over the hill” in order to try and get older audiences to come to the movie theater. Rarely is any real attention paid to the story, instead relying on casual sentimentality in the marketing to drive interest. These projects often feel rushed and underwritten, but have created a somewhat profitable system to take the money from the elderly while also segregating the careers of older actors away from better projects. This is the Hollywood equivalent of throwing your parents in a nursing home.
You just don’t do that to the King, baby.
There is not a single moment in Poms where the script brings genuine emotional connection to its characters. The shorthand of giving the main character an incurable disease backfires completely, as the repercussions of it are touched on only at convenient times. Diane Keaton should be lauded for her attempt to portray a person struggling through the disease without letting it destroy who she is. Sadly the script seizes all opportunities to undercut her performance with shallow comic relief.
The script’s biggest fault is its need to create villains. As if cancer isn’t a big enough motivation for Keaton’s character to push forward, she is given 3 additional antagonists.
First; there are the retirement community leaders, these self-proclaimed “Southern Belles” who openly disapprove of the cheerleading squad for reasons that are never really explained. They say that it would be an “insurance risk”, but that excuse makes so little sense it is astounding.
The only insurance risk they pose is to social security…
The second villain is a cheerleading squad from a local school, who openly spurn the aging cheerleaders. As crass and cruel as teenagers can be, that they would do so to a group of elderly ladies who pose no threat to them whatsoever seems hard to believe.
The third villain makes the most sense in a realistic view of the world; a son of one of the cheerleaders whose overprotective nature conceals some serious personal issues. Unfortunately this one overplays its role so hard that it makes the movie lose all sense of proportion. This makes the movie jump from soft comedy to exploring disturbing themes of elder abuse in the same breath.
A film can do a lot to me. It can shock me, it can insult me, it can make me laugh, make me cry, make me angry or drive me crazy.
What a movie cannot do under any circumstances, is bore me.
Poms (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every mention of death or dying
Take a Drink: for cartoonish Southern stereotypes
Take a Drink: for golf carts
Do a Shot: for elderly dancing