Poms reminded me of a student film. Not every student film; as a film professor, I have seen many, and there seem to be two different types. There are the ones that are taking the opportunity to experiment and test boundaries, which usually results in the prototypical art student film, seeming to point to aspirations in avant-garde and independent filmmaking. Poms falls under the other category, with the students aspiring to imitate the
formulas, despite budgetary limitations. While it is less noticeable than it
might be in a more action-oriented genre, there is much that appears amateur
within Poms, despite the best efforts
and good intentions by the cast and crew.
The premise of Poms feels very familiar, even if it is somewhat unique in its combination of clichés and caricatures. I was as impressed with what Poms was willing to omit as what it included, choosing not to dwell on the inevitable disappointments and heartache set into the story. At the same time, it was difficult to wonder why they were put there in the first place. At its core, Poms is a combination of the dance competition film with the senior empowerment storyline that sees a return any time another beloved star has reached an age with few other leading role opportunities. Diane Keaton leads up the cast for this one, along with many familiar faces from pop culture’s somewhat recent past.
Keaton stars as Martha, a woman who decides to move out of the city to a retirement community to die of cancer, rather than opting to fight the disease. This decision is somewhat contradictory (or at least complicated in a way that is never discussed) to the remainder of the film, which is centered on Martha’s decision to live life to the fullest by starting a cheerleading troupe made up entirely of senior citizens (Jacki Weaver, Rhea Perlman, Phyllis Somerville, Pam Grier, Patricia French, Ginny MacColl). After a villainous tyrant of the community named Vicki (Celia Weston) takes it upon herself to stop the cheerleading group by any means necessary, it is clear that her character is one of many unnecessary one-dimensional contrivances inserted into the narrative. As dedicated as Weston is to the performance, her scenes feel like they were written in after watching too many ‘80s camp movies. It is never really clear why she hates the loveable group of misfits so much, other than a way to give the cheerleaders more adversity.
As if judgment from people their own age acting like they are still in high school was not enough, the group also sees adversity from actual high school cheerleaders when their first performance fails and is posted online. The positive outcome from this is one of the cheerleaders (Alisha Boe) feeling guilty enough about the interaction that she agrees to help choreograph the routines for Martha and the women. This is especially good news for the grandson (Charlie Tahan) of one of the members, who was accustomed to spending all of his time with people more than three times his age.
The film goes pretty much where you expect it to, with a final performance that results in a victory of sorts. It is just unfortunate that so little time was spent on actually choreographing this final performance. The editing of the sequence often feels done out of necessity to cut around flaws in the performance. There are not enough edits to remove them all. This paired with an inconsistent visual style (mostly due to poorly lit, framed, and focused shots) makes Poms feel more amateur than the group of senior cheerleaders. My recommendation to anyone about to watch Poms would be to watch a film called Unfinished Song instead. It is the same formula, but far more effective executed.
The Blu-ray release may actually do this film a disservice, because I was far more aware of each visual shift from scene to scene in high definition. The DVD is likely a fine option for most, as this film doesn’t have visual effects or the like. There is also a digital copy included, giving you three ways to watch the movie in this one package. This must be to make up for the lack of special features on the actual disc.
Entertainment Value: 5.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10
Historical Significance: 1/10
Special Features: 2/10