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Sundance

Sundance 2024: Thelma Showcases June Squibb as an Unlikely Action Hero

Thelma is the feature film debut for writer-director Josh Margolin. TNE watched the film as part of the Sundance Film Festival 2024, you will find our review after the synopsis below.

When 93-year-old Thelma Post (June Squibb) gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her.

June Squibb and Fred Hechinger appear in Thelma by Josh Margolin, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by David Bolen.

The film is inspired by Margolin’s grandmother, who was in a similar situation herself. She may be an unlikely action hero, but June Squibb’s Thelma Post certainly ticks all the boxes. Thelma has a nice dose of humor, action, and drama, combined with an excellent cast.

Thelma touches on subjects like ageism and how we infantilize the elderly too much without getting too deep into it. Squibb conveys so much just with her facial expressions that there is no need to slow down the film too much to hammer home the point. June Squibb (Nebraska, About Schmidt) as a leading lady is something that should have happened sooner in her career, but it’s finally happened and she nails it, unsurprisingly. The woman is a treasure and puts in a gem of a performance.

The supporting cast is excellent. Thelma’s grandson Danny, played by Fred Hechinger (The White Lotus, Fear Street) probably gets the most to do. He has a cute relationship with Squibb, I really bought their familial relationship. The late Richard Roundtree (Shaft) is great as Thelma’s friend Ben, acting somewhat as her partner in crime. Their relationship must support a large section of the film and they work off each other beautifully.

Others in the cast include Parker Posey (Lost in Space) as Thelma’s daughter, Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as son-in-law Alan, and Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange). It is an impressive ensemble that all have their moments to impress.

In the film, Thelma is inspired to go after the scammers by Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. The music and shot choice play into those action movie tropes. Thelma’s version of a stunt may be rolling over a bed, but it feels cinematic and exciting the way that it is portrayed. The filmmaking really supported the tone of Thelma and worked to boost its appeal without overdoing the gimmicks.

Thelma looks beautiful, not just the photography by David Bolen but the production design by Brielle Hubert is strong. The locations are well chosen but the details of the set decorations add to the character of Thelma, especially in her home. 

I really enjoyed Thelma and I expect it to secure distribution soon, as it was a hit at Sundance. It’s a cute film, which sometimes gets a little too twee, but for the most part stays on the right side of the line. June Squibb is a star, who knew she could be an action hero as well. The cast really sells the material, but the filmmaking is impressive from a first-time director. I would recommend watching Thelma when it shows up on the big screen or streaming.

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