• Wendy Shreve


Updated: Jun 14, 2021

What drives human beings to become emotional fossils when they age? Too much baggage, possibly; loss of a loved, for better or worse; illness; boredom, all these challenges, separate or combined, can push one's geriatric buttons.

Helen Wilson (Ellen Burstyn) lost her husband years before but she wants to remain in the home the couple shared. Her daughter (Elizabeth Mitchell), on the other hand, has had misgivings that she shares without regard to her mother's feelings. Meanwhile, she schemes behind her mother's back to manipulate Helen, convince her to relocate to a nearby senior community.

Forced to leave after a kitchen fire, Helen agrees to go to Pine Grove after her grandson promises that the move wouldn't be permanent. Once she does, Helen meets whom she believes to be "mean girls." They want no part of the attractive, confident and lovely woman.

Thankfully, the screenwriters (including the book's author, Harrison Powell) of Queen Bees (2021), avoid extending nasty interchanges between the women. In time, Helen realizes the "girls" played by Loretta Devine, Ann Margaret, and Jane Curtin have their own issues--including the obligatory medical woes. Soon the ice begins to thaw. Romance with a fellow resident also follows (James Caan).

Billed as a comedy, the narrative progression transitions from many amusing moments to more serious drama. That's when the plot begins to sag. The dialogue doesn't meet the breath of excellent performances. Once again, the dearth of well-written scripts for older women is noticeable.

Ellen Burstyn, draped in flowing caftans and shawls, looking naturally radiant, carries the film. The others, because of the short running time, one hour and forty minutes, have shorter scenes.

Supporting actors French Stewart and Ricky Russert play caricatures whereas a jocular Christopher Lloyd and delightful Alec Mapa have meatier roles.

As a fellow viewer noted, Queen Bees provides sweet, sometimes touching, entertainment. Yet the movie doesn't invite a second viewing. True: the terrific cast deserves better.

PG-13 for sexual innuendo, medical crises and revelations, and adult themes.

Now showing in select theaters and for rent via streaming services. Locals, the movie is playing at the Chatham Orpheum Theater.

Earlier reviews are available on

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