Queen Bees Review: Remember the 1952 Japanese classic Ikiru about aging with grace? Well, Queen Bees is also a meditation on mortality, albeit one that is severely deprived of subtlety and stymied by stock situations and characters . Though the cast is impressive it isn’t a pleasant experience to see the great Ellen Burstyn(remember her magnificent Oscar-winning performance in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More?) and the one-time sex symbol Anne Margaret playing octogenarians.
It took me a while to recognize the slouching old man who plays Burstyn’s love interest. It was none other than James Caan the rebellious Corleone son in The Godfather, now a faint replica of his fiery self.
To see this once young and charismatic cast reduced to a wintry wispy shadow of the past is heartbreaking, much more than the film which tries to be a cheerful treatise on the old and ends ups looking like an evening for the old where the veteran cast tries to have fun with numbers.
Burstyn is Helen who lives all alone and can’t get along with her daughter Laura(Elizabeth Mitchell).The daughter admittedly comes across as a bit of a partypooper, much to Helen’s (and ours) annoyance. Helen must be moved to an old folks’ home when her own residence needs repairs.She would rather stay with strangers than with her own child.(I can see many parents empathizing with that).
The rest of Queen Bees is an over-cute under-cooked autumnal poolside party with wheelchairs replacing pool chairs. While Ellen Burstyn is just passable in this impossibly artificial upbeat drama, the one to watch is standup comic Jane Curtin as the cranky unpleasant Janet whose loss of faith is attributable to loneliness.
There is no dearth of emotional pockets in the plot of Queen Bees. These are never explored nor given a chance to grow organically in a plot that seems anxious to score with the audience but fails to cloak its excitement. The false exuberance of the narrative soon gets to you. Sequences such as the one where Helen and her black friend Sally(Loretta Divine) whip up a storm in the bedroom, are only meant to spotlight the screenwriter’s desperation to show us that the old too can have fun if they try.[tnm_video layout=”mnmd-post-media-wide”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEGnA3VVvOU[/tnm_video]
I totally get that. And I am one with the basic premise of this old-is-gold film. But the execution and the characters are so shallow and uninspiring they seem to be advocating chawanprash rather than living a truly zestful life.