Starring Diane Keaton. Rated PG
If you know Poms’ premise, you know it’s an easy target. "An old-lady cheerleading movie” was how a cranky Anjelica Huston slagged it in Vulture last week, earning an epic response in Vanity Fair from the film’s sex-crazed senior, Jacki Weaver: “Well, she can go fuck herself.”
But the problem with Poms goes deeper than the concept—and farther than a juicy celebrity catfight. It can be summed up with a simple description: Diane Keaton in a cheerleading uniform. No, make that Diane Keaton in an Oxford shirt under her cheerleading uniform.
Yes, one of Hollywood’s last class acts holds on to that one piece of sophistication, even as she pretends she’s a senior who always dreamed of jumping around with pompoms.
Believe it or not, Poms does produce some laughs—a lot, unsurprisingly, from the sweet yet potty-mouthed Weaver. In fact, it’s hard to really trash a film that portrays older women as shit-disturbers. But the disconnect, this feeling that the characters were never quite seen as worthy of development, drags Poms down. It’s also hard to decide who its audience is. You might think “octogenarian bridge groups who want to laugh at themselves”—except for the sudden, blunt references to death.
Keaton plays Martha, a woman who’s given up on chemotherapy for her ovarian cancer. City-bred and single, she auctions off all her belongings to move… to a pastel-hued retirement community in Georgia full of aging southern belles? Screenwriter Shane Atkinson doesn’t bother with an explanation. The entire premise is manufactured so you can watch prickly, straight-shooting Martha rub up against the control freaks of the manicured facility. And Keaton does her best with this: just watch her announce “I’m here to die” to a sunny, golfcart-riding welcome committee (led by the always excellent Celia Weston as its fuchsia-lipsticked queen bee).
Somewhere in there you might have found a funny film, but the events that lead Keaton’s character to start a cheer squad are just about as convincing as, well, Annie Hall leading a pep rally. And the further the movie gets into cheerleading competitions, audition montages, viral videos, and broken hips, the less invested you feel in the silliness. The conflict is implausible, whether it’s adult helicopter children who don’t want their aging mums shaking their asses, or teen mean girls who’ll do anything to take down the grannies.
So while there are a few touching strides for senior sisterhood here, many of the women are too faintly sketched to avoid stereotypes. (Watching Pam Grier this wasted is just sad.) Still, Keaton at least maintains her dignity—which, I suppose, is more than, say, Robert De Niro did in Dirty Grandpa.