By Paul Hall
Cliques, clubs, best friends and mean girls — it’s just another day in an American high school. We’ve seen it on film before, but as the new film Queen Bees, in theaters and On Demand, now demonstrates, these power battles are far from exclusive to a high school or college campus as viewers travel inside a senior living facility.
Helen (Ellen Burstyn) has found herself in Pine Grove Senior Community after a fire ravaged her home. It is to be a temporary stop while her house is repaired and she is less than happy to be stuck there. On her first day she quickly becomes aware that the buzzed-about group in the facility is known as the queen bees.
The bees are made up of their leader Janet (Jane Curtin) and friends Margot (Ann-Margret), Sally (Loretta Devine) and Anne (Marianne Muellerleile). They eat together, take classes together, play bridge together and exercise together, and at Janet’s insistence, they are not looking for new friends.
Helen is her own person and with encouragement from her grandson she tries to fit in with the group. As Sally gets to know Helen, she brings her into the group and Helen’s blunt nature will not allow Janet to run over her. A new dynamic in the group is formed.
Helen also has a man showing interest in her. Dan (James Caan) is trying hard to attract the single lady. And of course men always find a way to throw a wrench into the mix, but will Helen let him in to her life?
I adore seeing the talented cast recruited for this film showcase their wares. Burstyn, Ann-Margret, Curtin and Devine are just delightful to watch. They look to be genuinely having fun with their roles for the bulk of the film. When Burstyn and Devine got a girls’ moment together smoking, you could feel they just wanted the jokes to keep coming. I would love to see the outtakes from this film and see if the fun kept rolling when the cameras were not.
Too often, we see older actors not getting to showcase their wares. Sure, they are not the same age they were at the height of their popularity, but Burstyn, Curtin, Ann-Margret, Devine, Caan and Christopher Lloyd all prove that you are only as old as the number that people call you. Attitude is everything and doing what you love is timeless.
Maybe it is because I am older myself, but this film gives viewers what they want. You’ll laugh and you will cry while you settle in for your time with the Queen Bees. And it is a time that will leave you buzzing for years to come.
Paul’s Grade: B
Stars Ellen Burstyn, James Caan, Ann-Margret, Jane Curtin, Christopher Lloyd, Loretta Devine
Director: Michael Lembeck