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'Thelma' review: June Squibb finally gets leading lady status in fun caper

Courtesy of Magnolia


At 94 years old, June Squibb has had a remarkable career in the entertainment business, but would you believe she’s never been the star of her own vehicle? The actress has incredible screen presence and elevated films ala “Nebraska,” or “About Schmidt, (the former earning her a much overdue Oscar nomination), so it’s refreshing to see the actress having the time of her life in writer-director Josh Margolin’s “Thelma,” which is a semi-autobiographical film modeled after his late grandmother of the same name. 

In this breezy 98-minute caper, Squibb is so spot-on playing Thelma, and the script so rich at capturing the pathos of aging with a delicate lens, all you can do is smile. “Thelma” is more than worthy of Squibb’s talents as she plays an internet illiterate grandmother who decides to embrace her inner Tom Cruise and go on a quest to retrieve $10,000 bucks she sent to a scammer posing as her grandson, Daniel (played by an affable Fred Hechinger). For Thelma, it’s the rare opportunity to spice up her daily livelihood, which usually consists of watching old videos of her deceased husband singing on YouTube and reminiscing about friends who have since passed.

She enlists the help of an old ally named Ben (played by the late Richard Roundtree) and, most importantly, his motorized scooter in a quest that could best be described as “Mission: Impossible” for the AARP crowd. Naturally, this new conquest sends Daniel and his parents (Parker Posey and Clark Gregg) into a bit of a tailspin trying to track down Thelma who, like Jason Statham in “The Beekeeper,” wants to locate the bad guys who are taking advantage of little old ladies.

It makes for an enjoyable romp that doesn’t yield that many surprises but stays light on its feet and never feels weighed down. Squibb and Roundtree have an affecting chemistry and you can’t help but root for their success and friendship to endure. They take several detours along the San Fernando Valley that can become a little tedious and don’t spark much tension, but their charming performances are what gives “Thelma” it’s spark. Margolin does a great job at not necessarily making a mockery of our senior years (it never condescends to the target audience), rather, tastefully poking fun at all the little things we can sometimes struggle with as we age. Like, you know, internet connectivity, how an HDMI cable works, or mobility issues.

In lesser hands, “Thelma” could be a tasteless satire that didn’t understand who it was for, but Margolin balances all the doldrums of aging with a sweet and endearing comedy that finally puts June Squibb on the pedestal she rightfully deserves.

Grade: B 

THELMA is now playing in theaters. 


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