Diane Keaton

Poms

First Hit: There are several funny scenes, and although it gets to the edge of being silly, it never goes over the cliff.

My first memory of Diane Keaton (playing Martha) was at Orange Coast College where she was an acting student. Then, she was interestingly quirky — her own person and had a crowd around her (theater arts people). She still is the same kind of person, and in this film, she’s retired, alone and interestingly quirky.

The story begins with Martha selling her possessions. She’s moving to a retirement home in Georgia. The greeting is an over the top southern homespun reception that includes a tour of the grounds, and a lot of southern charm spread around like fertilizer.

This doesn’t quite sit well with Martha because, as a straight spoken northerner, we discover she’s there to be left alone and die a peaceful death from cancer which she is choosing not to fight.

She’s got a nosy neighbor Sheryl (Jacki Weaver) who intrudes on her. The interactions are, at first, exasperating. However, Martha soon warms up to her, especially when she learns that Sheryl substitute teaches to make extra money.

Martha tells Sheryl she was once a cheerleader and she had to quit before her first performance because her mother was ill and dying.

Sheryl and Martha start a cheerleading club at the retirement home. They need a total of eight people, and so they reach out, and six others show up for tryouts. They are; Alice (Rhea Perlman), Helen (Phyllis Somerville), Olive (Pam Grier), Phyllis (Patricia French), Evelyn (Ginny MacColl), and Ruby (Carol Sutton).

Each of them has a story as to why they want to be in the club, and we get to learn that some of these women have been or are being controlled by husbands for family, and by joining this club they are doing something they want, and they like it.

There are fun scenes that mostly relate what it is like to get older but having the spirit of being young still residing within.

There are ups and downs in this story, but the overall mood is, at times, poignant sprinkled with humor and fun.  

Keaton is perfect for this role. Her own quirky independent nature fit very well with the quality of this character. Weaver was excellent as the nosy neighbor who had reason to have her grandson live with her. Perlman was fun. When she showed her “guns” in the gym, I could see she enjoyed it. Somerville, Grier, French, MacColl, and Sutton were all wonderful in their roles as women looking for a bit more fun in their lives. Charlie Tahan (as Sheryl’s grandson Ben) was very good as the nerdy guy who gained confidence along the way. Alisha Boe (as Chloe a high school girl who helps the Poms) was terrific. She saw that everyone gets older and that someday she’ll be there too. Shane Atkinson and Zara Hayes wrote this screenplay. Although it was lighthearted and filled with fluff, it worked. Hayes also directed this group, and I’m sure it was fun for the entire crew — it showed.

Overall: I liked and enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

Book Club

First Hit: Although the age ranges they portrayed didn’t work, as a comedy it was out-loud funny.

The actual age ranges between these women (Fonda 81 & Steenburgen 65) was too wide ranging for me to believe that they were nearly lifelong friends. This part of the story needed cleaning up. However, once I got past this, I found the story funny, poignant, and enjoyable.

At the time I went to see this film, 11:00 AM, there was a small crowd of older women. I think I was the only man in the audience. And initially, they were laughing at just about everything. I was only mildly amused.

Yet something happened as the film went on, I found myself enjoying the pointed jabs at age, men, sex, and technology. What made it work was the actors themselves. They all have been around long enough for the audience to know them a little. The parts they played were perfect to how we know them.

The vehicle the story uses for these women to get together once a month is a Monthly Book club. They’ve been meeting monthly for over forty years and in doing so, they have learned to love and accept each other as they are.

Diane (Diane Keaton) was grounded in her flighty Annie Hall sort of way. Watching her slow build to telling her grown protective children that she was still capable of being happy, learning, and having fun experiences with a man was pointedly clear.

Vivian (Jane Fonda) played the rich I don’ need anyone loner was perfect. Jane has generally shown her skittishness towards being vulnerable and in this role, she has to become vulnerable with the man who shows up to her again after forty years.

Sharon (Candice Bergen) was the professional woman, who had her cat and her Federal Judgeship to keep her happy. After her divorce her husband Tom (Ed Begley Jr.) found love in someone one third his age. She said she couldn’t care less and was happy presiding over her courtroom until....

And Carol (Mary Steenburgen) was the only married woman in the group. Her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) and her still liked sex. However, after his retirement party six months earlier, he was disinterested in her sexually and seemed lost.

Early in the film, the group meets and it’s Vivian’s turn to select a book. She chooses Fifty Shades of Grey. This gets all the women thinking about their sex life and eventually their love life.

Diane is afraid of flying and meets a very rich pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia). Vivian runs into her old beau Arthur (Don Johnson) who is still in love with her. Sharon decides to try internet dating and meets up with George (Richard Dreyfus) an accountant and someone who really likes her. And Carol finds devious ways to try to get Bruce interested in sex again.

As you might imagine, older women finding that they are interested in love and intimacy is relevant to all people at any age.

Keaton was quirkily funny in both her actions (paddling a floating swan in a pool) and words. She can really shine when the role calls for it, and it does here. Fonda, I must admit, is someone I’ve adored for her intelligent skittishness towards men. Here she shows that she still has that power over me at 81. Bergen was the character I had the most reservations about. I never liked her TV role of Murphy Brown much, but here she shines. I loved her projections of herself on her contented cat. Steenburgen had the most difficult role because she was still in a relationship. However, the scene with the cop stopping her and Bruce after she spiked his beer with Viagra was funny. Nelson was very good as the reluctant husband finding his way after retirement. Garcia was excellent as the pilot who wanted to whisk Diane away. Johnson was very good as the very romantic younger man who still held a lot of love for Vivian. Dreyfus was funny and appropriately stuffy as the accountant that had found his match. Them getting out of the back seat of Sharon’s car was funny. Bill Holderman and Erin Simms wrote a script that worked for these actors. Holderman’s direction was strong enough to get me laughing out loud.

Overall: I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

Morning Glory

First Hit: Actually funnier and better than I expected.

Rachel McAdams plays Becky a very ambitious television producer who is well liked by her colleagues because she is hardworking, compassionate and willing to work with almost anyone. She is ungraciously fired from a job where she thought she was going to be promoted. She beats the pavement and finds a new job on a show that will soon be replaced if they don’t get higher ratings.

Jeff Goldblum plays Jerry Barnes, a prickly sarcastic VP of the studio that decides to give her a chance. The production team and talent on this morning show are odd balls and they work in a congested basement like mess of a studio.

Becky sets the tone and gains admiration of her staff in her first staff meeting when the entire staff tells what they want to work on all at one time, but then in this welling of confusion, she responds to each of their ideas right after she fires the head male talent because he is a pervert. However, all her work gets her nowhere until she comes up an idea to hire on a veteran hard news reporter the studio has on contract.

This reporter, Mike Pomeroy (played by Harrison Ford) is grumpy, arrogant, hates anything that isn’t what he considers “hard news” and declines her offer. However Becky points out that if he refuses he will lose the last two years of his lucrative contract with the studio. He’s paired on the set with the current long standing hostess Colleen Peck (played by Diane Keaton) who would like the show to do well and will try new stuff.

However, Colleen and Mike do not get along and some funny lines are written for these two as they squabble on air. Of course the film ends in a Hollywood way and the show is saved.

McAdams is intense in this role and almost feels like she as pressing the character. However, there are some very funny moments with her bringing some funny comedic timing with her lines and cute physical characterizations (like her walk). Keaton is low keyed and she brings out a strong character that isn’t going to be fooled with. Ford is a good grump. He can screw his face up in a very convincing way. When his character is to be a little bit open and vulnerable he carries this off without making incongruent with the overall wizened and grumpy character. Aline Brosh McKenna wrote an amusing script, however there wasn’t enough in the script to really bring a depth to Becky as to why she was such a workaholic. There was some stuff about her mom and dad but it lacked realism. Roger Michell directed this and for the most part did a wonderful job of keeping it all moving in the same direction with drama and comedy from many different characters.

Overall: Not a great film but there were some very good laughs and it was enjoyable to watch and I left the theater feeling better than when I walked in.