Josh Margolin‘s Thelma, a Sundance headliner that I saw last night, is a mostly mild situation dramedy about the pitfalls, sadnesses and surprising turn-arounds of a chubby old biddy (the 94 year-old June Squibb, in her first starring role) when the going gets tough.
It makes for a reasonably decent sit, although I didn’t like it at first because of the hugely annoying Fred Hechinger (The White Lotus), who plays Squibb’s flaky-loser grandson.
Squibbs’ titular character is also 90something and, as you might presume, suffering from the usual intellectual and physical diminishments. Sissies need not apply.
Thelma is about the white-haired Squibb getting scammed out of $10K (which actually happened to Margolin’s real-life grandmother), and how she refuses to take this humiliation lying down and soon after becomes a dogged investigator and push-backer on her own steam and tenacity.
The reason I didn’t like Hechinger, whose dipshit Zoomer character has been told by his mom and dad (Parker Posey and Clark Gregg) to look after Squibb and keep her out of trouble, is because his performance had me half-convinced that he was in on the scam. (I hate guys like Hechinger…I really do.)
After going to the cops and getting no help, Squibb locates the post office box address that she sent the $10K to by envelope. (A voice on the phone told her to do so or Hechinger would be in deep shit, and she bought it.)
She makes her way to a nearby assisted living facility to seek the assistance of old buddy Ben (Richard Roundtree), which boils down to Thelma borrowing his mobility scooter, except Ben won’t let her drive alone.
They visit the home of an old out-to-lunch friend, and during this stopover Thelma discovers and pockets a loaded pistol. (Not worth explaining.) They get back on the scooter and wind up at a gas station, but then Thelma forgets to engage the parking brake…
With Posey, Gregg and Hechinger in hot pursuit…Jesus, I can’t do this. What am I gonna do, spill the whole story?
Eventually Thelma and Ben get to the bottom of things, and I was quite amused to discover that the principal scammer is none other than the white-haired 70something Alexander DeLarge.
The situation is resolved a little too easily but by that time I had decided that Thelma is an above-average thing, not quite on the level of Little Miss Sunshine but occasionally so.
Thelma is not a comedy — it’s a half-and-halfer. It certainly declines to go goofy or silly. There are elements of real pain and stress and sadness woven in. Now and then it’s actually touching, which surprised me. I’m giving it a B-plus.