After she’s scammed out of $10K by someone claiming to be her grandson in prison, she overhears her daughter and son-in-law, Gail (Parker Posey) and Alan (Clark Gregg), suggesting that she probably should no longer live alone.  Fiercely independent at 93, though, she sets out to get her money back and as her friend who owns a scooter, Ben (the late Richard Roundtree of “Shaft” fame), will learn, there is no stopping a determined “Thelma.”

Laura's Review: B+

Writer/director Josh Margolin makes his feature filmmaking debut with one of those movies about old folks being plucky, the type of film that usually derives cheap chuckles from grandma smoking pot.  But fear not as Margolin has crafted a real charmer using a situation with his own grandmother to illustrate how small things can become big obstacles depending upon our abilities.  He’s also not only given June Squibb her first lead role, he’s made her an action star, the 94 year-old actress performing such stunts as a head-on scooter collision, a seat-roll over an obstacle and a fall.

When we first meet Thelma, her adoring, twentysomething grandson Daniel (Fred Hechinger, "The Woman in the Window") is showing her how to scroll within her inbox and their relaxed banter tells us this is one important relationship to both.  So when someone calls in a panic identifying himself as Danny, Thelma’s quick to respond, assured that his voice sounds funny because of a broken nose.  Directed to mail $10,000 cash to a P.O. Box, Thelma takes a cab to the post office, alerting Gail along the way.  By the time his dad actually gets a hold of Dan, the money’s in the mail and Detective Morgan (Chase Kim) says there is nothing they can do without the address it was sent to.

Crestfallen over her own gullibility, Thelma decides to take action, slowly making her way back to the post office on foot (in an amusing running gag, Thelma keeps running into other older women who think they might know each other, but never do -  until one (Ivy Jones) actually does at just the right moment).  Triumphant, having found the slip of paper she wrote the address down on in the trash in the P.O., Thelma calls Daniel, but he focuses on her safety over the discovery so she lies when he asks her if she’s home.  Going through her phone contacts to ask for a ride, Thelma hears one tragic tale after the next until she’s forced to tell Daniel the truth.

Deciding her family will only get in her way, Thelma goes to visit Ben with sights on his red electric scooter and after trying to escape with it, Ben reluctantly joins her quest to travel across L.A. to surveil the P.O. Box she sent the money to.  They’ll have many adventures along the way, including a stop at Mona’s (Bunny Levine) for Thelma to secure a gun while Ben frets about the clearly no-longer-with-it woman’s safety (his tender ‘goodbye, doll’ says it all).

Margolin riffs on Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible” series as the duo outwit everyone from Bentwood Nursing Home’s Colin (Quinn Beswick) and Rochelle (Nicole Byer) to Thelma’s family tracking her via her Lifeline.  A subplot about Dan’s parents constantly criticizing him further connects him to his grandmother, the middle generation underestimating both the younger and the older.  A shocking event causes a rift between Thelma and Ben, beautifully resolved.

Squibb is a delight here, an impish instigator tempered by the more level-headed Roundtree, a great mismatched buddy pairing and Hechinger is endearing as Thelma’s grandson.  Posey and Gregg both dial their performances up a notch too far, but other supporting players add amusing and lovely grace notes throughout.   Malcolm McDowell also appears as Harvey, a most unexpected type of mastermind, himself given assistance by a younger cohort (Aidan Fiske).

The film is given added flair by Nick Chuba's funky genre score featuring bongos, drums and flute.  Cinematographer David Bolen, whose work on “Some Kind of Heaven” prepped him for working with seniors driving carts, favors centered magic hour landscape shots to indicate the passage of time and space.  With “Thelma,” Margolin’s avoided the twee trap finding the funny in seniors.

Robin's Review: B

Thelma Post (June Squibb), 93-years young, gets a frantic call from her beloved grandson Daniel (Fred Hechinger). He tells her he is beaten and held by the police and needs $10000, cash, right away. She dregs up the money and posts it in a mailbox. Then, she learns she has been scammed and sets her mind to get her money back in “Thelma.”

When I read the synopsis for the movie, I was skeptical, to say the least. I mean old people acting cute has been done many times before – I still have the bad taste of “Cocoon (1985)” in my mouth. But, I have always liked June Squibb so I gave “Thelma” a shot.

The result is exactly as I expected with old folk being cute and doing things they should not. June Squibb, though, as expected, anchors the story and is helped immensely in her mission by her old, now-in-assisted living friend, Ben (Richard Roundtree). This pair is responsible for nearly every old-people-being-cute moment in the movie.

There is more, however, to Thelma’s story. It also deals with the issues of aging, loss of memory, physical inabilities and the remembrance of what it was like to be young and strong. She is unrelenting in her mission to get her money back and will do what she has to do to make things right. There is also a warm, grandma-grandson story of caring weaved throughout.

As I begin my life as an old person, I could easily identify with Thelma and the plight of aging. She cannot do what she used to, but that does not stop her in her quest, despite the pitfalls and obstacles she faces. Thelma is a neat old woman.

Magnolia Pictures releases "Thelma" in theaters on 6/21/24.