Opening 19 Aug 2021
Now retired, Helen (Ellen Burstyn) tends to flowers, and memories, that thrive around her tree shaded ranch-style home. Only grandchild Peter (Matthew Barnes) visits regularly, since Laura (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Helen’s relationship has been testy ever since granddad died. After Helen has a minor mishap, Laura and Helen decide she should stay elsewhere while repairs are made. Which is how Helen ends up at Pine Grove, a rather swanky independent senior living facility Helen abhors and Laura enthuses about; the manager (French Stewart) guarantees her mom’s happiness. Naturally, Helen hears about the “Queen Bees,” – “B is for bitches,” and, with every encounter they live up to their reputation. In spite of that, Helen agrees to be Sally’s (Loretta Devine) new bridge partner that Margo (Ann-Margret) agrees to—she is too involved in Arthur (Christopher Lloyd) to mind, but Janet (Jane Curtin)—the queen of Queen Bees—opposes. Unsuccessfully. Around this time, a new, single man (James Caan) arrives, and Dan wastes no time in making Helen’s acquaintance. Dan matches Helen’s dry wit thus gets on her good side; as well, Helen’s other friendships, particularly with the massage therapist Lito (Alec Mapa), keep her preoccupied. Just when things seem rosy, Janet pulls a total bitch move.
Director Michael Lembeck, working from Donald Martin’s screenplay based on a story by Harrison Powell, has a penchant for, and shows good sense making worthy movies. Additionally, the ensemble is incredible. Four octogenarian performances: Oscar® winner Burstyn portrays attitude plus candor; onetime sex symbol Ann-Margret is as appealing as ever; Caan’s versatility ever enigmatic and charming, and Lloyd’s character’s humor edged pathos (Lloyd has three films in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry). And, two septuagenarians: iconic SNL comedian Curtin’s finessed nastiness, and versatile voluptuous stage/screen actress Devine’s spunkiness. They deliver the witty wisecracks—“sweaty under boobs,” “like nuts with my balls,” and nonverbal idiosyncrasies with aplomb, and insightful hard facts with veracity. Editor Sabine Hoffman nimbly brings together Alice Brooks’ embracing cinematography and Walter Murphy’s perky, charming music. Queen Bees is easy to watch entertainment; it calls to mind, sometimes when least expected, things turn out better than expected. A darn right nice idea: “It’s never too late.” (Marinell Haegelin)