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Thelma (2024)

90-something June Squibb is the action star we’ve been waiting for!
Our Rating

Genre(s): Action, Comedy

Director: Josh Margolin

Actors: June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Malcolm McDowell

Year: 2024

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA

A friend of mine laughed when I called Thelma a slow-motion action movie, but it’s true! The biggest moment of nail-biting tension doesn’t involve a gun (though there is one), but a lone elderly woman shuffling across an industrial field in the dark. I swear, that scene me more anxious than seeing Tom Cruise dangling off the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (a film whose own action star is cheekily referenced several times).

Our hero is Thelma (June Squibb), a 90-something grandma to her adoring but aimless 24-year-old grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger). When Thelma gets scammed for $10,000 cash on the phone by someone pretending to be Danny stuck in jail, she’s so mad she decides to take it upon herself to go get the money back. Enlisting her old friend Ben (the lovely Richard Roundtree in his last performance), the two set forth with dogged determination to find the scammers and make them give back what’s hers—where it’s not so much a race against time as a race against it getting dark and their loved ones and assisted living staff noticing that they’re gone.

Both Thelma and Danny are smothered by the worry of Danny’s parents, the “sandwich generation” played by Parker Posey and Clark Gregg. I may not have kids, but as someone in that middle generation I couldn’t help but sympathize with their desperate requests for Thelma to just wear a tracker for their peace of mind (oh man, I can relate). Because once Thelma gets on the road, watching her and Ben racing down a darkened alley (well, probably trucking along at 15 mph) on a mobility scooter made me tug at my hair in dread and worry (while I giggled hysterically, thinking, “Noooo!”).

Indeed this film has all the elements of an action movie: You’ve got a heist, high tech communication devices, a very slow chase (as the family simply tries to catch the wiley Thelma), and you even have Malcolm McDowell as the villain and Richard Roundtree as a hero (Shaft!). Inserting these elements into the very real world (and every day trials) of a modern-day senior simply trying to maintain her independence is what makes the film so darn clever and fresh. This charming crowd pleaser smartly manages to poke fun at all generations, while admirably being sensitive enough to not punch down when it might be easy to do so.

June Squibb is wonderfully funny in her first lead role at 94, and has a lovely chemistry with both Hechinger and Roundtree. I mean, it’s really impossible not to adore June Squibb, and you can see this adoration radiate toward her not just from the characters, but from the actors themselves. So it’s not surprising that the film is deeply personal to first-time director Josh Margolin—he presented the film at the Seattle International Film Festival with Squibb, and said it was based on his own grandmother named, yes, Thelma. Keep that in mind, as the final scene is guaranteed to hit you right in the feels. (I think I may have gotten something in my eyes!)

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