The indomitable ‘Thelma’ rolls into your local theater


She’s a little old lady not from Pasadena, but rather Encino, or thereabouts. June Squibb plays the title role not as a doddering oldster, but a defiantly independent one even as the vagaries of cellphones, Facebook, and online-banking seem to be colluding against her.

Yes, THELMA (2024), out at month’s end from Magnolia Pictures, is a character based on the real-life grandmother of writer/director Josh Margolin, in his first, hugely impressive feature-film directorial outing. One fine day, Thelma falls prey to a telephone scam. The cops are feckless, her family urges her to cut her losses, but she decides to do something about it. Aiding in her mission is a loving grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger) and faithful pal Ben (played with beautiful reserve by the late Richard Roundtree.)

That’s the movie — and all you need to know. Do not see THELMA if you don’t want to kick back, relax and enjoy delicious plot twists and turns, and marvelous character acting. The pièce de resistance of which is the nailed-down comic performance by its 94-year-old star, June Squibb.

Film has the best San Fernando Valley mise-en-scene since Paul Thomas Anderson staged his work there. It’s “very L.A.,” with a catch. It shows how bonds of human connection prevail over the isolating reality of our far-sprawling existences. As light comedy, Thelma is a small triumph. It will make you feel happy. So go.

THELMA | opening in theaters June 21

Debra Levine is the founder/publisher/editor of artsmeme, now in its sixteenth year of arts-blogging.

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