Gimme an A! A! R! P!

Poms

by Christie Robb

At a time when movies are pushing three hours, it feels weird to want one to run longer, but at just over an hour and a half, Poms feels way too short. It’s like a long SNL sketch.

A female-centric comedy about a retired teacher aching for one last shot at her childhood dream of becoming a cheerleader seems like a good option for Mother’s Day weekend—especially for the Boomers and their kids. The cast looks solid: Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, and Rhea Perlman. Poms coming “from the studio that brought you Bad Moms” appears promising.

But it’s all just perfunctory.

Director Zara Hayes and writer Shane Atkinson, both TV veterans making feature debuts, introduce characters via montage and then give them little to do or say.

People become strange antagonists, set on denying the senior cheerleading squad practice/performance time for no discernible reason. Folks burst into tears or have 180 degree shifts in perspective simply because the plot demands it.

Still, Keaton’s performance of a woman striving to live in the moment while hiding terminal cancer is effective. The chemistry between Keaton’s snarky Martha and Jacki Weaver’s bubbly Sheryl is cute. And when they are performing, the women look like they are having a nice time.

You just wish that there was more of a story there, more character development, more cheerleading even. The cast is way too good for this.

Gray Matters

Book Club

by George Wolf

Book Club offers up a boatload of veteran Oscar winners and nominees, but limps to its final chapter as a ninety minute catch-22. So many roles for senior stars: good! What this movie makes of those roles: not so much.

Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen are Diane, Vivian, Sharon, and Carol, lifelong friends who began a monthly book club back in the 70s with the scandalous Fear of Flying.

With all four friends now comfortable in their golden years, the randy Vivian chooses Fifty Shades of Grey as the group’s next assignment. The girls are a bit hesitant at first but right on cue, Christian and Anna’s naughty romps reignite some fires down below.

Laughing at older people being sexual is beyond lazy, it’s ignorant. Thankfully director/co-writer Bill Holderman, in his debut feature, does seem actually interested in laughing more with his stars than at them.

But too many of those laughs are leftovers from every episode of Three’s Company, when Mr. Roper overhears Jack and Chrissy in the bedroom saying something like “It’s not big enough!” while we know they were just trying to hang a curtain rod the whole time! Ribaldry!

While the ladies juggle possible boyfriends (Richard Dreyfuss, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson) and a disinterested husband (Craig T. Nelson), contrived antics and double entendres go straight to the unfunny bone.

If you were checking off boxes, all the rich, white characters and romantic fantasies would seem like Nancy Meyers material. But Book Club can’t dig any more than surface deep, and even with all this talent, it never shows the confidence in character that elevates Meyers’s best (It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give).

And then, a surprisingly subtle metaphor built around the comeback of vinyl albums gives you reason to believe Holderman’s heart is in the right place here, he’s just in over his head.

 





It Doesn’t Go So Well

And So It Goes

by Hope Madden

Michael Douglas turns 70 this year, and though, in younger years, he carved out some memorable characters, in his final lap he’s really found his niche. No longer dependent on the vain smolder of his unreasonably popular 90s output, the battle-tested pro has settled into a groove playing elderly scoundrels. And So It Goes offers him another opportunity, this time with Oren Little, widowed misanthrope.

Oren falls for lounge singing sweetheart Leah (Diane Keaton), but his abrasive personality and a mind-numbing series of contrivances stand in the way of true love.

Though Keaton simply recycles the same character she’s played with minor variations since 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give, the banter between these two vets is never less than charming.

But let me ask you something…when was the last time Rob Reiner made a good movie? Admittedly, he directed, bar none, cinema’s greatest mockumentary, as well as two of the best Stephen King adaptations on record. His whole Eighties catalog impresses and entertains.  A Few Good Men doesn’t suck outright.

After that, meh.

Even Douglas and all his geriatric charisma can’t overcome Reiner’s schmaltz or writer Mark Andrus’s insulting screenplay.

In 1997, Andrus wrote As Good As It Gets, a yarn about a curmudgeonly loner whose heart is warmed by a series of humanizing obstacles and the love of a good woman. In 2014 it’s the same story, different obstacles.

Conflict appears and conveniently disappears as soon as it’s served its purpose. One hollow plot device after another springs up to teach lessons and warm hearts, yet keep the two love birds apart. The lazy scripting is almost as offensive as the way the film casually embraces the stereotype that the elderly are racist. Reiner gives Andrus’s lines an eye rolling “oh those racist scamps” kind of spin that’s beneath the characters these actors are trying so valiantly to create.

The whole team is simply cashing in on the new market for old talent, films like Something’s Gotta Give and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel having proven that there is an audience for late life romances. The great thing about that revelation is that it allows talents like Keaton, Douglas and others the opportunity to lead films.

The unfortunate side effect – one felt in any proven cinematic market – is the soulless cash grab.

Like this movie.

Verdict-2-0-Stars