“POMS” — 2½ stars — Diane Keaton, Celia Weston, Bruce McGill, Jacki Weaver, Alisha Boe, Rhea Perlman, Pam Grier; PG-13 (some language/sexual references); in general release; running time: 91 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Martha is in a time of transition.
After 46 years in the same New York City apartment, she sells off most of her belongings and relocates to an active retirement community in Georgia called Sun Springs. She has no children and apparently no other family, but she does have cancer, and has decided to refuse treatment and go out on her own terms — in this case, which involves fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a cheerleader.
That's the overall premise of Zara Hayes’ “Poms,” and while the film won't make you get up out of your seat and cheer, it might make you smile.
At first, Martha (Diane Keaton) is the cranky transplanted New Yorker who turns her nose up at everything the giddy senior community has to offer, including more than 100 clubs, per the community president (Celia Weston). It seems she’s entered a bizarre pastel world where everyone drives golf carts and an overzealous security chief (Bruce McGill) hunts anyone who dares host a poker night. But eventually, a charismatic neighbor named Sheryl (Jacki Weaver) wears Martha down and discovers one of the few keepsakes that made it to Sun Springs: an old cheerleading outfit.
Martha confides that cheerleading is an unfulfilled dream, since after finally making her varsity squad as a high school senior, she had to quit cheerleading to tend to her ailing mother. But opportunity has now come knocking, albeit a little late in life, and Martha and Sheryl resolve to put together a new club at Sun Springs and give Martha her first chance to perform for a real audience. With the addition of a few more teammates, including neighbors Olive (Pam Grier) and Alice (Rhea Perlman), plus — eventually — a little expertise from a local teen named Chloe (Alisha Boe), the dream starts to become a reality.
There’s a real sweetness to the premise behind “Poms,” and as Martha and Sheryl face a series of challenges as they chase their goal, there are some very genuine moments. But it would be a stretch to say the sincerity is enough to carry the story.
Unfortunately, there are some issues that persistently hold “Poms” back and keep it from cohering the way it really could. Much of this happens as the film tries to create tension and obstacles for the club in the form of community management, angry relatives and other local cheerleading teams. The tension just feels a little too forced, manufactured and even unrealistic given the movie's tone.Comment on this story
The tone is another issue, as various parts of the film feel more appropriate for a sincere drama, while others feel like they should be amplified and used in more of an energetic comedy. The whole thing, in fact, feels like it could use a pep rally of its own, and as a result, “Poms” feels more “nice” than “good.”
Keaton is solid in the lead role, and Weaver has some fun as her sidekick — though some may tire of her over-reliance on sex-related jokes — but there’s definitely a feeling that they could have used some better material and execution here. “Poms” hits some poignant notes, but overall, the routine still needs a lot of work.
Rating explained: “Poms” is rated PG-13 for scattered profanity, vulgarity and sexual references.