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What to Watch This Weekend – Thelma

Thelma

Thelma is a story of adventuring and self-reliance. Thelma (June Squibb) lives a quiet life as a 93-year-old widow. She knits. She watches YouTube videos. She visits with her grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger). But as his grandmother ages, Danny worries about her health. His insistence on wearing a health monitor, for example, borders on irritation. Because while Thelma admits she may not know how everything works in the world today, she relishes her independence within it. One day, Thelma gets taken for a money-swindling scam. Determined not to be had, she sets off on a quest to retrieve her stolen funds. When her family discovers Thelma is missing, they worry the worst has happened and frantically begin searching for her.

What works in Thelma is the charming comedic moments blended with a tender message. Writer/director Josh Margolin with their first major feature film crafts a touching, optimistic tale exploring what it means to grow old. Squibb’s performance has the balance of doting old lady who gets in over her head, with a strong, sharp, and experienced woman. Her ability to fend for herself is precious to her. It’s something she will prove and protect at all costs. And as Thelma goes on her journey, Margolin spins a parallel story with Danny: a younger adult with the reverse problem—so much independence that he’s overwhelmed and thus squandering it. The two narrative arcs develop in subtle, kindly ways that will leave audiences feeling warm like their favorite cup of tea.

Audiences who don’t enjoy movies poking some fun at the inevitability of aging may not appreciate Thelma as much as others. The jokes in Thelma are fairly simple and occasionally obvious. The structure follows a very familiar fish-out-of-water playbook. As such, much of the action may feel a little telegraphed to those are familiar with the genre. Also, Thelma does a lot of plays the elderly for laughs. These bits are always respectful, but they are also a little on the nose and repetitive. Finally, people will have to accept a small level of absurdity with the proceedings as they escalate.

Thelma is a cozy blanket of a movie. The world could always use more family-friendly comedies, and Thelma is a standout reminder of that. This is a film that aside from a few well-placed swear words, people of all ages could enjoy together. Highly recommended.  

Recommended if you enjoyed: Nebraska, Grumpy Old Men

Thelma will be available to see in theaters, beginning on June 21st, 2024

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