THELMA Review: June Squibb, New Action Hero

June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree, Parker Posey and Clark Gregg star in Josh Margolin's sparkling comedy.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
THELMA Review: June Squibb, New Action Hero

What makes a true action hero?

Thelma (2024)
The film opens Friday, June 21, in limited release across the U.S., only in theaters, via Magnolia Pictures.

In our current cinematic dictionary, an "action hero" is defined as an unflappable, unstoppable killing machine, overflowing with machismo and a brutal determination to right all wrongs, seeking justice in the face of mighty opposers who appear to be overwhelming to lesser mortals.

Thelma Post ticks all those boxes. Except she's 93 years of age. And she needs to borrow a friend's motorized scooter to chase down the bad guy.

Inspired by his own grandmother's experience, writer Josh Margolin makes his feature directorial debut by fully embracing cultural stereotypes about aging adults: they are befuddled by technology, they are easily deceived, they are not able to care for themselves, they are stubborn, they are unreasonable. These beliefs cross national boundaries and infect the world with the misconception that aging adults are easy prey for criminal behavior.

Of course, there is some truth in all these beliefs. Younger people can be fooled, too, though, most often when older folks buck those stereotypes and reclaim their own agency.

There is no doubt that Thelma Post (June Squibb) is slipping. Her grandson Daniel (Fred Hechinger) makes himself frequently available to help her with errands and grocery shopping and friendly company as he drives her wherever she needs to go. He does this at the bequest of his parents, yes, but also because he genuinely appreciates her company, her sense of self, and her sense of humor.

His parents, Gail (Parker Posey) and Alan (Clark Gregg), worry about Thelma, too, even as they are fully occupied with their careers and all the other concerns of middle age. Is it time for Thelma to be placed in a retirement home?

All these concerns come to a head when Thelma is fooled by a phone scammer into thinking that her grandson has had a terrible accident and needs immediate financial assistance. Out of her love for him, she mails "him" a large sum of cash.

At this point, dear reader, I will pause to make a confession: I am nowhere near as old as Thelma, but I was taken in last year by an online scammer in a scheme to abscond with some of my limited funds. (May they burn in Hell forever.) I was saved at the last moment by common sense and an alert bank teller. Yet this experience left me angry and completely embarrassed by my own foolishness.

I did not ache with a burning desire to exact revenge upon the guilty. I am not Thelma, but I completely understand, and empathize with, her immediately hatching a plan to get her money back ... somehow.

sa_MagnoliaPictures_Thelma_430.jpgThat plan leads her to the retirement home where Ben (Richard Roundtree), a friend of her late husband, now lives. She is convinced that Ben's motorized scooter will be very helpful as she seeks justice for the oppressed (herself).

What makes Thelma a charming, all-ages action comedy is tied up in the feisty and quite awesome lead performance by June Squibb, her first after a lifetime of supporting roles in movies such as About Schmidt; she's also the voice of Nostalgia in Pixar's current hit Inside Out 2.

Thelma is fiery and stubborn, yes, but she is also incredibly loving toward her family members. At the same time, she doesn't want to be a burden on them or, really, on anyone. Getting older means walking slower, often being minimized, and sometimes being shoved aside. June Squibb captures all those emotions in Josh Margolin's clever, tender script.

In the final performance of his career, Richard Roundtree goes out on a high note. Just by the way he carries his body, you can't help but think of John Shaft and the dozens of roles in which the actor dominated the screen by his sheer magnetic presence. As the aging Ben, whose body is breaking down and no longer capable of his past prowess, his eyes still cast a fierce magnetic power.

Young Fred Hechinger does a fine job as the caring grandson who is well aware of his own limitations; he sees qualities in his grandmother that he seeks to emulate, even as he is well aware that she won't be around forever. Parker Posey and Clark Gregg provide very solid support as his parents: loving, capable, yet completely overwhelmed by anxiety.

Deftly sidestepping stereotypes, filmmaker Josh Margolin keeps some surprises up his sleeve, making Thelma a fully-satisfying and completely not embarrassing action comedy.

Visit the official site for more information and to purchase tickets.


  • Josh Margolin
  • Josh Margolin
  • June Squibb
  • Fred Hechinger
  • Parker Posey
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Clark GreggFred HechingerJosh MargolinJune SquibbParker PoseyRichard RoundtreeActionComedy

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