Queen Bees

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Helen (Ellen Burstyn) has been on her own since her husband passed three years earlier. She’s relatively self-sustaining and as sharp as the proverbial tack, give or take a nasty habit of locking herself out of the house. It’s one thing to make a mistake in the morning, another to call in the fire department to break in and extinguish that night’s dinner after it has set the kitchen ablaze. It’s at her daughter Laura’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) insistence that Helen checks into nearby Pine Grove, a “swanky old people’s home,” just long enough for the structural damage to be repaired. But a renovation that was originally slated to take no longer than one month stretches on for several. Then Helen’s initial reluctance about the place begins to thaw, thanks to her acceptance by members of the titular power clique and a romance with newcomer Dan (James Caan), the only lips to touch hers since becoming a widow. Every spinster grade-school teacher that ever made your life miserable is contained in Jane Curtin’s Janet Poindexter. A bully by nature, it says a lot about a character that her son informed a neighbor that his mother had died. This is quite the departure for director Michael Lembeck, whose target demographic prior to this skewed considerably younger The script by Donald Martin and Harrison Powell walks a fine line between funny and maudlin, i.e. no main characters died during the making of this picture, and any talk of disease is expressed with surprising candor. Make no mistake about it: this is as close to television as movies get, but damn if the cast doesn’t keep one watching. (2021) — Scott Marks

Rated PG-13 | 1 hour, 40 minutes
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