As a young girl I was obsessed with anything related to cheerleading. I watched Sugar & Spice and the Bring It On movies religiously. I was a cheerleader for Halloween when I was 8, a zombie one at age 9, and was even a part of the recreational team for my local park district. It was my passion. However, I was never allowed to be on the team at my elementary school because I wasn't a straight "A" student. I remember feeling the sting of rejection coursing through my veins as a 6th grader. Knowing I wasn't going to make the team, I tried out anyway and my nerves got the best of me, resulting in me bombing the whole routine. I never picked up a pair of pom poms again.
With the recent release of Poms, a small spark ignited in me; I had to see this. With all the poor reception it's receiving, I have to be the hipster in this equation. Not only did I enjoy myself, I was surprisingly moved.
Maybe it was the fact that my entire theater was in stitches that made me giggle uncontrollably, but it was very clear to me that Zara Hayes did what she came to do and then some. The "some" I'm referring to is me tearing up at so many unexpected times. Being presented characters in situations I relate to was the last thing I would expect from a movie about women much older than me. Hayes herself is younger than the cast, and she makes it clear that the inevitable is okay to be feared, while not letting it stop you.
Martha, a single middle aged woman without any next of kin, moves to Sun Springs Retirement Community to live out the rest of her days after choosing to skip her cancer treatment. She meets her new neighbor Sheryl who inadvertently gives her the idea to start a cheerleading club to make up for the missed glory days of her youth as an almost-cheerleader. With the subtle disapproval of the Sun Springs committee, Martha and Sheryl round up a group of less than hopeful candidates. Either women who always wanted to cheer, but never got the chance to as youths, or just to have fun. Faced with obstacles of facing cancer, broken bones, and rejection, the group remains resilient. With the help of a local high school cheerleader, Chloe, they grow to need each other more than they thought. This story follows the formula of similar films about teamwork and competition. A lot of what we see in Poms resembles scenes that we've seen in many popular flicks, most notably the cult classics of the Bring It On franchise. Specifically referencing its sequel film, Bring It On: Again for it's idea of creating a team of misfits. What makes this film different from those is the team's need to live it up rather than have aggressive competition. I think it would have suited the story better to have them perform in a third setting somewhere in the middle of the other two to earn their progression and maybe add some more conflicting elements. It reminded me of Ocean's 8 with how easy everything came to them. Nonetheless, it worked and I think those who are giving this film such a hard time are failing to see that this film is not meant to be super complicated.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Diane Keaton is marvelous as Martha. Her humor is carefully paced and executed swimmingly. Jacki Weaver plays Sheryl, the spontaneous neighbor. A cast full of brilliant ladies including Pam Grier, Rhea Pearlman, and Alisha Boe are such a delight the whole way through.
Like I said earlier, this movie cracked me up. My only real issue with the dialogue is the weird use of “slut shaming.” Sheryl calls a high school girl something along the lines of a slut as a defense mechanism, but verbally attacks a man later for calling a high school girl close to her a slut. It plays on the whole idea that women can call each other that, but a man better not dare. In the scene when we first meet Alice, she mentions her husband being afraid of her looking "like a slut or a whore, or both at the same time.” I'm not entirely sure what this film is trying to say about this. Are they trying to poke fun at how older ladies from an earlier time view younger women? I'm sure having a sassy little bitty saying it for cheap comedic relief was not meant to sting as much as when a guy says it later, but for me personally, it was pretty uneasy either way. I assume it was probably set up for Sheryl to see it in an alternative context in order to redeem herself. Damn, queue the snowflakes for me.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Though nothing extraordinary, the soundtrack was well thought out. It's fun and definitely tailored to people over the age of 20. Older hits like “The Clapping Song” famously sung by Shirley Ellis, used to emphasize what they would have danced to as cheerleaders in their day are utilized. They throw in some widely known lady anthems like "Man I Feel Like a Woman" By Shania Twain and "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross. Over done, yes, but they work well here. The mix used in their final routine at the competition was really cute and I hope it is released somewhere.
The main thing I remember is the obvious contrast between Martha's simple aesthetic versus the women she is surrounded by. Martha is always sporting earth tone colors and has a plain, dull home. The other ladies in the community are always in bright colorful clothes. Sheryl's house reminds me of my aunt's house in Florida, full of vacation décor. I loved the design of the competition gym. It was dark with tones of blue, pink, and GLITTER. Not going to lie, this is partly what I came for. I wish we saw more of it. There's also some really important symbolism that left me speechless. All I know is, I don't believe I will ever be able to watch fireworks the same way again.
On the surface, Poms is a light little comedy about older ladies starting a cheerleading squad for shits and giggles. However, it's much more than that. This doesn't mean it's super deep, in fact, it doesn't really take itself seriously at all. It just doesn't dwell on the sad reality of Martha's circumstance, but rather the sentiment of how she spends her time. The best part about this whole film? The characters are loosely based on a real cheer team called the Sun City Poms of the Sun City Retirement Community in Arizona! Look them up on YouTube, you will not be disappointed. Personal childhood nostalgia aside, this is surely one to consider for your next movie night with your pals.