'Thelma' Refuses to Let Scammers Get Away with Her $10,000

 

Last updated 3/2/2024 at 5:25pm | View PDF

With the help of her friend Ben (Richard Roundtree), Thelma (June Squbb) sets out on a mission to find scammers and get her money back.

Ninety-three-year-old Thelma Post (June Squibb) is strong, sturdy and in charge – defying a lifetime of odds, she's successfully brushed off assisted living well into her nineties, instead, living alone in her cherished condo.

Her independent world is rocked though, when she falls victim to elder-abusing phone scammers posing as her beloved grandson, Daniel (Fred Hechinger), and regrettably sends them $10,000 in cash.

With her family now worried that she's entering "a new phase," Thelma decides to do the unthinkable - confront the scammers and get her money back - enlisting the help of a reluctant old friend, Ben (Richard Roundtree), and his high-powered mobility scooter, in a perilous mission across Los Angeles, determined to prove she's just as capable as ever.

Here, the fearless, 93-year-old June Squibb steps into a leading role for the first time in her storied 70-year-career – and Richard Roundtree, miles away from his iconic "Shaft," plays her partner-in-crime with vulnerability and quiet strength. Featuring a nuanced, touching performance from breakout star Fred Hechinger and buoyed by the hilarious Parker Posey and Clark Gregg as Thelma's distressed family, anxious to track their aging matriarch down – Thelma is an "action" comedy unlike any other.

"Thelma" marks the wonderful, brilliant Richard Roundtree's final on-screen performance and those on both sides of the camera dedicate the film, in loving memory, to him.

At once a celebration and playful subversion of the action genre as well as a soulful exploration of aging and autonomy – "Thelma" is a showcase for our oldest generation, those rarely centered in life, let alone on-screen.

The Inspiration for 'Thelma'

For first-time feature writer/director Josh Margolin, the film serves as a love letter to the exploits of his real-life grandmother, transforming her into a nonagenarian action star and the hero of his debut.

"My grandma refuses to die," said Margolin. "She just turned 103 and has survived the Great Depression, WWII, the death of her husband, a double mastectomy, colon cancer, a valve replacement and an ongoing but allegedly benign brain tumor.

"So when she got duped by phone scammers a few years ago – and nearly sent them thousands of dollars for my 'bail' – it pierced my long-standing belief that she was somehow infallible – a belief that brought me some kind of undue comfort throughout my own anxious existence," he continued. "The inevitability of losing her has become increasingly real to me, and so has her dogged persistence to hold on to her sense of self, as her body and mind stubbornly slow.

"I wrote 'Thelma' from this place of reckoning. I wanted to explore her fight for what's left of her autonomy just as I was beginning to consider mine. She has always been larger-than-life to me, and I felt compelled to dramatize her story with the trappings of a genre that captures her powerful spirit and celebrates her grit and tenacity – action.

Vulnerability and Resiliance

Margolin called "Thelma" "a twist on the classic 'one last job' flick. Because as far as I'm concerned, watching my grandma get onto a high mattress is as thrilling and terrifying as Tom Cruise driving a motorcycle off a cliff – just in a very different way."

Thelma's grandson, Daniel (Fred Hechinger), helps her on her computer.

The story is an epic journey on a granular scale because, for Thelma, the little things present great dangers.

"I want the audience to feel these challenges viscerally, never making light of the strength it takes for her to move through the world," said Margolin. "The film shrinks down the tropes of the action genre to a very human scale and uses them to explore aging, fragility and anxiety.

"And I couldn't imagine anyone doing this but June, who I feel so lucky to have gotten to work with. At 93-years-old, she left it all on the field, bringing equal parts vulnerability and resilience – as well as doing the majority of her own stunts. Thelma centers and celebrates her as well as those who would see themselves reflected in a type of action hero we rarely see."

 

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