Queen Bees

By Joanna Langfield

This is a movie that’s far more effective than its buzz. Because if this picture does anything (and yes, it does), it proves good, experienced actors can elevate even the most ordinary of scripts.

I mean. Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margaret, Jane Curtin, Loretta Devine, Christopher Lloyd and James Caan. Just being in a room with them for a few hours is a treat, even if that room is in an assisted living facility. And, while Donald Martin’s screenplay is about as expected as you might fear it would be, this terrific cast, under the direction of Michael Lembeck, who also helmed “Friends”, knows how to make it work, bringing a wise sweetness and sense of humor we can all appreciate.

Here’s the set-up. Burstyn, who, it should be noted is 88 years old, thank you, stars as Helen, a widow, forced into temporary housing at a senior center. There, she runs into the fearsome Queen Bees, or, as written, the original Mean Girls. But that’s okay.

Helen’s not staying for long anyway. But then she meets Dan (a simply wonderful Caan) and, well, maybe Helen will stay a little longer than she thought.

Yes, Burstyn is amazing, gliding through almost every scene in the film with elegance and compassion. Throughout, we feel her emotional joy and pain, not any, if there are any, aches and pains. And, while I wish we’d seen more of Ann-Margaret and the devine Devine, Curtin is a hoot and Caan reveals a whole other side that’s deliciously different from the roles that have made him a star.

It’s great the film industry is acknowledging the fact that vehicles about older people, starring some wonderful actors, can, if done right, draw audiences. Not every character on the screen has to be a superhero, although in Ellen Burstyn’s case, we may want to consider just who qualifies for that title.