Reel Reviews | Thelma (Sundance ’24)

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

When 93-year-old Thelma Post gets scammed for ten thousand dollars, she takes revenge into her own hands in the hilarious comedy adventure, Thelma.

Thelma Post lives alone.  Her grandson visits her and worries over her.  He even does his best to show her how to work her computer and navigate the internet.  Thelma loves the attention but remains fiercely independent.  One day, Thelma receives a curious phone call that her grandson has been in an accident.  The phone call tells her to mail ten thousand dollars to pay for damages and she does it for her grandson.  Moments later, Thelma discovers that she has been scammed and that the money has been stolen.  Under the threat by her daughter and her husband of being moved into an assisted living home, Thelma decides to take action herself.

Thelma is written and directed by Josh Margolin.  It stars June Squibb as Thelma, Fred Hechinger, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Malcolm McDowell, and Richard Roundtree, in his last performance.  This is the first feature film that Margolin has directed.

Margolin effectively has created a world where an elderly woman has become an action star.  In movies like Going In Style, the elderly stars become action stars who pull off heists.  This time around, instead of pulling a heist, Thelma becomes an action star, going on a hero’s quest to retrieve her money.  Yet, as implausible as this may sound, every bit of the journey Margolin crafts is totally believable and completely tongue-in-cheek at the same time.

After decades of work, Thelma is the first film where June Squibb gets to play the lead.  A consummate veteran, Squibb has always been the best in her supporting efforts providing sharp wit, comic relief, and sage wisdom.  She has the same wit and humor in this film but instead of advising others, this film is hers, with a terrific supporting cast.

Richard Roundtree plays Thelma’s long-time friend, Ben, a widower who fancies himself as an actor in the assisted living home where he resides.  In his last role, Roundtree shows that he is still at the top of his game.  His work here is a bastion of seriousness in a storm of hilarity.

While the performances of Squibb and Roundtree are delightful, the real star of the movie is the soundtrack.  Nick Chuba (Triple 9) provides a tight, action-style soundtrack that perfectly compliments the action on the screen.  The use of the music makes the audience see the things on the screen in a different light than what they are.

This film has not yet been rated however, there is mild violence, scenes of smoking, and some language, Thelma is an inventive, creative, and extremely funny movie.  It is a shame that it has taken so many decades for June Squibb to get this kind of role.  Thankfully, she makes the most of the opportunity given here.  This film is a must-see experience, not for great cinema or an Oscar winner but is really, really fun.

Grade: B