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Thelma - Sundance 2024


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By: Isaac P. Ale
January 30, 2024

June Squibb and Fred Hechinger in Thelma Thelma [2024]

Film

What do you get when you cross Mission: Impossible with an assisted senior living center? Maybe even sprinkle in a delightfully charismatic June Squibb??

Well you don't even have to answer that question because lo and behold the answer is right in front of us! Thelma, written and directed by Josh Margolin, is a fun and lovely take on the classic action ideals of films like Mission: Impossible, or any Guy Ritchie movie. Dissecting these action movie tropes, only to reassemble it in a subversively cute way is what makes Thelma not only unique, but wonderfully heart warming.

Make no mistake, all of this heart is a product of Squibb's character, in writing from Margolin and acting by Squibb. When 93 year old Thelma (Squibb) is scammed out of a hefty sum of money when she receives a phone call that sounds a lot like her grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger). However, instead of staying put and accepting defeat, Thelma takes it upon herself, with a little help from her old friend Ben (Richard Roundtree), to track these scammers down and get her money back. Not only is this story compelling, due to Thelma's hardiness and easy-to-root-for personality, but how its carefully carried out is what makes it a step above.

Thelma could've easily veered into being cheesy. But instead, Margolin creates a story that is full of heart and humor without ever exploiting the age of its stars. There's plenty of jokes about aging don't get me wrong. But the restraint on the humor, opting instead to push ideas of knowing when to accept help or self-reliance, gives the film its warmth. Well, that and Squibb being absolutely wonderful. Her delivery is spot on and comes with a quiet gravitas that elevates the light tone of the film.

On top of Squibb's performance and Margolin's precise direction, there's also Nick Chuba's score that is a callback to those Mission: Impossible vibes. Consistent ticking and a quickened pace help to establish the thrills of Thelma where you'd normally rely on action stars. The pairing of Chuba's music, Thelma and Ben racing against time on a motor scooter is not only exciting to watch, but incredibly well done.

The only problem is when Squibb isn't on screen. One dimensional supporting characters cause the depth of the story to falter from time to time. Danny's existential concerns about not being able to do math and how that cost him his prior relationship is as confusing as it is unnecessary. Not to mention, Malcolm McDowell's role as the big bad Harvey was a bit of a miss for me. Attempts to create a complex antagonist that you almost root for, end up distracting and delaying the film's resolution.

But luckily the good outweighs the bad! Margolin provides a steady hand and a humorous story that create a fun film full of heart. June Squibb is the action star we've always wanted, with charisma to spare, and carries the emotional weight of the film in tremendous fashion.

If we can get, what're we at eight Mission: Impossible movies? If we can get however many of those movies, then I demand more Thelma action!

Froth

With how light and fun Thelma is, I would be remiss if I didn't add to the refreshing humor. The Top of Main Schirf by Wasatch Brewery is a perfect piece of crisp refreshment to pair alongside June Squibb's badass action. Incredibly light with wonderful Helles pale color, this beer is delightfully light. But it possesses a soft bread flavor that carries each sip to a level that only a good Helles can bring.

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