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Movie Review

Martha isn't a grump. But she's lived too long in the cynical heart of a big city, and been battered too often by life's cruel blows, to be anything but pragmatic and straightforward. So it makes sense to Martha in this last stage of life before her cancer finishes her to coldly sell off whatever she has of value, toss out the rest and move to a retirement village in the country.

At least there, she can quietly live out her remaining days in a place of sunshine, wide stretches of manicured grass and relaxed access to amenities like hottubs and pools.

What Martha doesn't count on when moving into the sprawling community of Sun Springs, however, is the … niceness. Are all elderly people, other than her, so schmaltzy and fake? Is there a rule—that when you get old you have to wave and smile—that she had never heard about? Is it illegal to run a cloyingly pleasant octogenarian over with your car?

Yes, the overly friendly residents of Sun Springs tend to peg her annoyance meter regularly.

But then Martha meets her next door neighbor, Sheryl. The woman is pushy and a bit abrasive. And the two don't seem to have a whole lot in common either. But at least this woman is honest. Sheryl seems more concerned with her potential late-years sex life and maintaining a steady supply of wine than any of the niceties of senior living. So Martha and Sheryl hit it off.

Just about the time the two get comfortable with each other, Sheryl accidentally learns of one of Martha's secrets. Long ago as a teen, Martha was forced to quit her cheerleading squad to care for her ailing Mom. Ever since, she's clung to that little missed opportunity as a regret in her life, a remorse memorialized in the few old photos, yearbooks and uniforms she could never part with.

Upon spotting these items and hearing of Martha's missed chance, Sheryl casually suggests that it's never too late to chase your dreams.

Never too late.

Chasing dreams.

Hmmm. Martha decides, on a whim, to do a little dream chasing and start a cheerleading squad at the retirement community. I mean, what has she got to lose? And it turns out that to start a new club in the Sun Springs community you only need eight participants. Sheryl reluctantly agrees to help.

Now, all they need to do is recruit some of the other, uh, "girls."

Positive Elements

Early on, Martha notes that her mother used to say, "We don't die, we live on through the memories that we leave behind." And since Martha is on her own with no family to leave anything to, her mother's words are part of what drives her on to make the most of her cheerleading efforts and her connection with the other women in her makeshift "squad."

Eventually, all of the women find the strength to push through various physical and emotional weaknesses, thanks to the others in their group. They reach for and achieve small victories that none of them really thought possible. In that way, the movie strongly suggests that, indeed, you're never too old to work hard at your goals. And it's never too late to form loving, supportive bonds with those around you. In fact, those are the very things that make life, at any age, rich and rewarding.

A young teen cheerleader from a local high school also learns some life lessons here. After sneering at the efforts of the elderly squad, she eventually takes steps to help them get better. In the process, she forms relationships that transform a number of her narrow assumptions about life and aging.

Sheryl's grandson, Ben, secretly lives with her in the retirement community. She goes out of her way to care for the young man because, as he explains to Martha, his parents "aren't really the parenting types."

Spiritual Content

One of the elderly cheerleaders refuses to respond to someone else's negative choices, saying, "Not today, Satan!" Someone else later proclaims, "Praise Jesus!"

Sexual Content

The seniors aren't shy when it comes to tossing out quips about sexual things in their lives or in the lives of others. Sheryl, in particular, is regularly at the center of discussions about sex or sexual activities.

For instance, when Martha first meets Sheryl, she proclaims that her only talents are "poker and poking," She talks crudely and disparagingly about the lack of male virility at Sun Springs. Sheryl also substitute teaches at a nearby high school. And in her first class, an English class, she proceeds to show a film about venereal disease. She states in a group meeting that she has chlamydia. And later, she announces that she was disciplined for handing out prophylactics in the high school girls' bathroom. Etc.

An elderly cheerleader suggests that men see cheerleaders as nothing more than "sluts and whores." And that perspective is supported later when a guy gets angry at a young cheerleader and says as much.

Sheryl sports cleavage in a swimsuit. Teen cheerleaders wear outfits that bare quite a bit of skin. And several women in Martha's group, while discussing things they like about themselves, speak of and grab their favorite body parts. One of the women shakes her backside during a dance routine.

Violent Content

We see evidence of how Martha's cancer is attacking her body as she winces and doubles over in pain, gets violently ill from her medications and at one point collapses into unconsciousness.

The husband of Alice, one of the women in Martha's squad, dies. And the other women wonder if Alice herself might have brought an early end to the overly controlling man.

Someone falls and breaks her ankle.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear nearly 20 misuses of God's name (including two uses with "d--n"), and two abuses of Jesus' name. One f-word and 10 s-words join several uses each of "a--," "h---," "d--khead" and "b--ch." Someone tosses out an offensive hand gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Glasses of wine and mixed party drinks are a fairly common part of the seniors' gatherings at community events and around the outdoor pool. Every time Sheryl and Martha get together, Sheryl cracks open a bottle of wine and drinks it. She gets a group of poker players together and they all drink beer. Martha usually refrains from imbibing because of her medications, but in one group gathering she drinks a cocktail and gets slightly tipsy.

After an all-night party, we see a handful of teens sleeping or passed out in a house littered with empty bottles and cups. After her husband's death, Alice proclaims that she's started experimenting with foul language and "smoking reefer cigarettes." We see Martha taking a number of prescription meds.

Other Negative Elements

Sheryl smashes in the widow of a car with a rock to create a diversion. The old cheerleaders and a group of sneering teen cheerleaders toss mean comments at each other, such as "break a hip" and "get pregnant." Sheryl drags Martha over to a community meeting area so they can crash a funeral service and fill their purses with food.

Conclusion

Life is tough. Whether you're a teen in junior high or an octogenarian in senior living (or somewhere in between), life can be challenging, awkward, disappointing, mean and an uphill grind. It can also be kinda sweet. It all depends on what you're willing to invest in it.

That lesson, in essence, is what Poms attempts to unpack through its gray-haired cheerleading tale. It's a feel-good comedy about friendship, sticktoitiveness and reaching for dreams ... even those that are seemingly well beyond your grasp.

However, Poms also stumbles at times. And it's not because its likeable leads are too advanced in age to do the necessary pep rally flips and splits. This movie is humbled by its own muddled and conflicting impulses. On one hand it wants to inspire. On the other, it can't bounce beyond its own poorly-crafted tendencies.

"It's cheerleading not pole-dancing," Martha spouts when defending her desire for starting a cheering club in a retirement community. Unfortunately, the movie's tired dialogue—packed with crude sex quips and profanities—feels all too often to fit better with that latter, pole-clinging crowd. And the Hollywood caricature of what it takes to be old and "cool" diminishes the upbeat message this film wants to send, as well as demeaning the viewers it wants to reach.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Diane Keaton as Martha; Jacki Weaver as Sheryl; Pam Grier as Olive; Charlie Tahan as Ben; Rhea Perlman as Alice; Celia Weston as Vicki; Alisha Boe as Chloe; Bruce McGill as Security Chief

Director

Zara Hayes ( )

Distributor

STX Entertainment

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

May 10, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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