By: Jolie Featherstone
When a film stars the likes of Diane Keaton, Pam Grier, Jackie Weaver, and Rhea Perlman as ladies who form their own cheerleading squad, the only correct response is to grab a pair of pom-poms and cheer. A heartfelt comedy with elements of Book Club and A League Of Their Own, Poms brings the fun and feels to a story about the importance of reigniting your spirit.
In Poms, the savvy, city-dwelling Martha (Diane Keaton) leaves her downtown digs of over 40 years to move into a quaint, sunny retirement community in the suburbs. Upon arriving in the “idyllic” community, Martha is greeted by the Southern Belles, a.k.a. the community’s welcoming committee (think down-home, grown-up Regina Georges). The welcoming committee impresses upon her the importance of participating in the community groups and clubs. In a moment of inspiration, Martha sets out to start a club of her own: a cheerleading squad (Note: This is the only appropriate time to write #SquadGoals).
Poms is a delightful treat of a film about a group of women who prove that there are no age limits when it comes to bringing it. In the current box office landscape where caped crusaders and big-budget franchises reign supreme, Poms is quietly refreshing. Not only is Poms directed by a woman in service and in celebration of women, the film also features women who feel real (indeed, we actually see a woman’s *gasp* sweat marks) and engage in supportive friendships.
Pacing-wise, the film moves in fits and starts. The comedy weaves between sweet and spicy. It could have done with a bit more of the spice to set it apart from the other titles in its category. However, the sweetness of the film always feels genuine.
Keaton and Weaver’s characters are the emotional centre of the film. Weaver’s flirty and sassy Sheryl is a fun foil to Keaton’s whip-smart and world-wise Martha. The friendship between this unlikely pair is one of the film’s major strengths. Keaton brings a certain grit to Martha, while Weaver throws out zingers with pitch-perfect delivery.
Though Keaton and Weaver are a joy to watch, the rest of the cheer squad, particularly Pam Grier, is underutilized. Having Keaton and Weaver’s characters at the centre makes sense. However, there was room for additional focus on the other women in the squad. In Grier’s case, the brief glimpses we see of her life are some of the most tender moments in the film.
As the cheer squad develops, teenagers begin to enter the fold. At the outset, the frequent eye-rolling, scoffing, and cries of “You’re embarrassing me!” felt heavily formulaic. As the story progresses, the teenagers become more understanding and, eventually, supportive of the squad. The film ultimately shows how unbecoming it is when people of different generations don’t value each other, and offers an upbeat resolution wherein the teenagers and cheer squad become friends. Similarly, the age and abilities of the cheer squad were sensationalized at times. The stereotypical aches and pains of age are played for laughs throughout the whole film. Much of this could have easily been substituted with more raunchy zingers from Sheryl.
Though the film is sweet and lighthearted, by no means should it be underestimated. Watching women show off their moves and savouring their passions is invigorating. The film also sheds light on experiences women frequently deal with that are rarely discussed openly. Poms touches on high-level topics such as bullying and societal pressure, while also honing in on acute issues such as domineering spouses and children, and slut-shaming. All of these scenarios are handled with sensitivity but are very carefully and intentionally included throughout. Similarly, the film actively attempts to be inclusive. Many different bodies and abilities are portrayed and are given agency.
Poms is a gentle hug of a film that encourages viewers to open their minds and follow their passions. There is a wonderful scene wherein Martha coaches the squad to step outside of their negative self-talk and forces them to really look at themselves. This film is the cinematic equivalent of that self-love exercise. Book a date to watch this with your nearest and dearest (Mother’s Day is coming up VERY soon *hint hint*). You’re guaranteed to leave feeling a little more peaceful than when you walked in.
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Jolie Featherstone: @TOFilmFiles