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Thelma

            It was only a matter of time before someone made a film about older adults getting scammed. Writer/director Josh Margolin‘s “Thelma is an equally hilarious and insightful film that champions grandparents. 94-year-old Oscar nominee June Squibb (“Nebraska,About Schmidt“) is getting top-billed for one of the better films of the summer, which is a reason to celebrate. Margolin’s comedy can be goofy at times (why is no one paying attention to these elders crashing their scooters into each other at a nursing home) and requires an amount of suspension of disbelief. However, Squibb’s tenacious performance and the beautiful relationship between a grandmother and a grandson offset the ridiculousness. You should expect to laugh and tear up simultaneously throughout the running time.

June Squibb and Fred Hechinger in Thelma

            Scammed out of thousands of dollars, widowed Thelma (Squibb) fell victim to a call saying her grandson Daniel (Fred Hechinger) was in danger. Thankfully, she is okay, but the family begins questioning whether she can live independently. “I made a mistake, she admits but refuses to let one mishap upend her life of knitting and watching Mission Impossible films with Danny on his frequent visits. The more she thinks about the cash money she mailed, the angrier she becomes, deciding to do something about it. “If you act like a baby, people will treat you like a baby, she says. Enlisting her husband’s friend Ben (Richard Roundtree) and his two seated scooters, they embark on a slow-motion chase through Los Angeles to find her money. 

"Thelma is a heartfelt celebration of life and a reminder to cherish our grandparents in a technological world."

            The multitude of nuances in the script add up to a genuine understanding of modern-day elders and our perception of their reality. Margolin uses little anecdotes we have all encountered that make “Thelma relatable. The running bit of “I think I know her only gets funnier each time it occurs. Thelma’s savvy in using Bluetooth to pair with her hearing aids is a bit questionable compared to our introductory scene, in which she is having trouble finding a deleted email. Yet the conversations between these moments are what counts most. Thelma showcases a variety of circumstances and living situations for those of a certain age; some will tug at your heartstrings, others used to great comic effect.  

            At its core, “Thelma is a celebration of life, especially for those with more years than the rest of us. Squibb is a delight, as is Roundtree in his final on-screen role. Hechinger’s Danny is similar to his role in “The White Lotus,” but his screentime with Squibb is endearing. The “Mission Impossible bit is ingenious if you catch the subtle references used throughout the film: the scooter being the car chase, the Bluetooth hearing aid being the hidden earpiece where one is telling the other to carefully step over the fallen floor lamp. It’s cute in a way that plays on your knowledge of action films. Thelma is an appreciation of our grandparents struggling to find their place in a technological world and a reminder to go visit them as often as you can.

Final Thought

Thelma is the most unexpected and best time you will have in theaters this summer.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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