UPDATE: More nice mentions…
I am posting more reviews here. You can read the previous ones at this link.
Crying over this one because her name was included in the list of these people. I LOVE IT!
This sweet upcoming dramedy movie features countless critically-acclaimed stars, including James Caan, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, Jane Curtin, Loretta Devine, and Elizabeth Mitchell.
This one mentions Liz:
(Asked if her mother is on any medications, Helen’s daughter, played, with an admirable lack of schmaltz by Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell, answers the query with, “Only for her dry wit.”)
I love what they wrote because Laura does that most of the times and Liz balances this attitude perfectly with Laura’s real emotions, fears and love for her mom. She’s perfect in this role.
Directed by Michael Lembeck, an Emmy-winning TV veteran responsible for some of the funniest episodes of Friends, the sentimental comedy Queen Bees sends an independent, octogenarian widow into a month-long stay at a posh retirement community where she gradually befriends the resident “mean girls,” begins a tentative romance with a charming widower, and slowly reconciles with her estranged daughter. Shot in an overly bright visual style reminiscent of synthetic sitcoms from the 1980s, Lembeck’s outing is relentlessly, almost oppressively chipper even when addressing subjects such as cancer, dementia, and debilitating loneliness, and in lesser hands, it could have been unbearable. (Hell, it could’ve been unbearable even in gifted hands, like those of Diane Keaton.) Instead, barring a few lapses in motivation and taste, it’s a real winner, and even though it’s rather bland, the movie is also made close to moving thanks to the exceptional acting talent involved.
At 91, Clint Eastwood is still playing leading roles on-screen – he’s got another scheduled for October – but has any Hollywood feature prior to this one boasted an 88-year-old female as its star? Queen Bees is an outstanding argument for more of them, at least if that 88-year-old is Ellen Burstyn, who’s so effortless, quick-witted, and beautiful here that while I never outright laughed during the film, it was barely possible not to sport a feature-length smile. Even when her Helen Wilson is frustrated or frightened or hurt, Burstyn exudes utter radiance, and still manages to make the art of acting look as ticklish as she did a full half-century ago in The Last Picture Show (and by then, the performer had already been a frequent television presence for 13 years). I admired Burstyn’s brief, pungent turn in the recent Pieces of a Woman, where it was clear that she’d lost none of her snap and drive. But I simply adored her in Queen Bees, which gives the legend her most expansive role in decades, as well as one of the few to showcase her devastating comic timing. (Asked if her mother is on any medications, Helen’s daughter, played, with an admirable lack of schmaltz by Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell, answers the query with, “Only for her dry wit.”)
Burstyn is so magnificent, in truth, that her unreasonably superb supporting cast could almost be afterthoughts – though they most definitely aren’t. As the 80-something widower who catches Helen’s eye, James Caan is a sweeter, more relaxed figure than he’s been in ages; his exchanges with Burstyn truly seem to be taking place in those moments for the first time, and when the two share a dance, your mind grows so filled with memories of their long screen histories that you can get misty-eyed without feeling at all manipulated. (Is this the first time Burstyn and Caan have been paired together? If so, how is that possible?) Ann-Margret starts out as a lascivious-old-broad stereotype before reminding us that, when casting directors choose to remember it, she’s also an awfully fine dramatic actor. The gloriously irrepressible Loretta Devine lends the film her signature exuberance, and is a real kick in the five-minute, single-take sequence in which she and Burstyn smoke weed. Christopher Lloyd, whose toupee is the sight gag that keeps on giving, lifts your spirits before breaking your heart. Dandy minor turns are provided by Alec Mappa, Ricky Russert, and the too-rarely-seen French Stewart. And Jane Curtin, playing the sourest resident in sight, is almost nastier than she needs to be – and good for her. It’s a perfect portrayal despite the imperfect writing, as this ice queen isn’t going to melt for you or anyone else … though she might just thaw a bit. There are dumb jokes and contrived plot turns aplenty and I still had a wonderful time at Queen Bees, a celebration of the golden years that – and I’m so sorry for this – is positively Burstyn with life.
BWW Review: QUEEN BEES at Sedona International Film Festival
QUEEN BEES is one of the premiere films to be screened at the 2021 Sedona International Film Festival (June12th-20th). Now in theatres and On Demand
Michael Lembeck certainly knows a thing or two about relationships and intelligent humor. The three-time Emmy nominee (one of which was a Win) for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (FRIENDS) and frequent presence on TV sitcoms (One Day at a Time; Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; Barney Miller), has brought his accumulated experience and sensitivities (and, perchance his own age ~ he’s now in his 70’s) to the fore in QUEEN BEES, a whimsical, poignant, and optimistic film about life never being too late to live.
Lembeck has translated producer Harrison Powell’s and writer Donald Martin’s vision into a work that buzzes with a smooth and gentle tone of familiarity ~ acknowledging the potential collateral damage of aging (the loss of independence, the passing of loved ones, the defeats of physical functions, and dementia) but not being weighed down by the gravity of it all. For, after all, this is a movie that purports to be “a comedy about the young at heart.”
In this latest addition to the repertoire of cinema about life transitions, QUEEN BEES is a thriving honeycomb of performances, thanks to the presence of veteran actors Ellen Burstyn, Ann- Margret, Loretta Devine, Jane Curtin, James Caan, and Christopher Lloyd. It’s like a gathering of cinematic eagles (pardon the mixing of puns) has descended upon Lembeck’s creative nest. The result is (besides an engaging story line) a generous master class in natural acting.
Ellen Burstyn (as Helen Wilson), radiant and polished as ever at the age of 88, shines as a cheeky, cantankerous, and determinedly self-reliant widow to whom fate (and fire) has pitched a curve ball. Hardly fragile but prone to forgetfulness, she locks herself out of her house as an unattended stove fire consumes her beloved abode.
Her daughter Laura (Elizabeth Mitchell) with whom she has a tenuous relationship, after much pleading, persuades Helen to move into Pine Grove Senior Community while repairs are underway, if only for a short while, at least until the repairs are completed. With added encouragement from Peter, her devoted grandson (Matthew Barnes), she reluctantly agrees.
Pine Grove presents itself as an idyllic well-appointed independent living haven, overseen by Ken, the overly solicitous manager, played with aplomb by the wonderful French Stewart. It holds within it, however, a hive.
Helen suffers the gratuitous welcomes of her new hosts and enters the grand airy space of the senior Xanadu only to find that some of the air feels adolescent. Cruising about in their own cloud of self-importance are the “queen bees,” the proverbial clique into whose fold entry is strictly limited and determined by its apparent leader, the ever-sullen Janet (Jane Curtin).
As Helen defies the bees’ order of things and enters their hallowed circle of bridge players, friendships begin to bloom and the strengths and vulnerabilities of each bee come to light.
As the narrative of each character unfolds, so too do the performances of the accompanying cast sparkle.
Curtin may play the villain in the group ~ acting out in devious ways that undermine Helen ~ but she balances her portrayal with enough of a sense of fragility (a woman bearing a cross) that she elicits our compassion.
Ann-Margret is delightful as Margo, the five-times-married siren on the lookout for number six. Across the crowded dining room sits Arthur (Christopher Lloyd), the object of adoration by the gray-haired ladies of the center. It is he on whom she will zero her aim, only to discover a truth that elevates Lloyd’s performance to brilliance.
The fourth member of the group is the dulcet voiced Sally (tenderly portrayed by Loretta Devine). Notwithstanding a recurrence of cancer and grief over her own loss, she manifests a strength of character, warmth, and humility that brings balance to the group.
As the Bees bond, romance enters Helen’s protected sphere in the form of Dan Simpson, a gallant, soft-spoken, and persistent admirer. James Caan is brilliant in the role, exuding pheromones in a charm offensive that captures Helen’s heart.
The scenes between Burstyn and Caan ~ especially the dance date that turns into a dance lesson ~ are masterful and, like so many other scenes throughout the film, resonate with authenticity. There is no end of pleasure in watching these two artists cast their spells.
There are, too, the unanticipated twists and resolutions that this review will not reveal. In their course, however, the true mettle and humanity of all the characters are revealed. Therein lies the gift that Lembeck and his magnificent cast deliver in this gentle and loving tale.
QUEEN BEES is one of the premiere films to be screened at the 2021 Sedona International Film Festival (June12th-20th). Now in theatres and On Demand.
Like kids in a candy shop, the cast leaned into their child-like tendencies with comedic timing and improvisation and it made for some unexpected moments. Spoiler alert: “The scene with Helen and Sally in bed, that was improvised”, Devine explained.
While the storyline of “Queen Bees” seems hyper-focused on one particular age group, the message transcends the ages. It’s never too late for new experiences.
The new comedy Queen Bees shows what happens when Mean Girls grow up.
Headed by a cast of screen legends including Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margret, Jane Curtin, Loretta Devine, James Caan and Christopher Lloyd, Queen Bees may be predictable but there’s no denying the feel-good movie will delight viewers.
Academy Award winner Burstyn stars as Helen, a widow clinging to her independence who is prone to locking herself out of her home. After an accidental fire leaves her house in need of repair, she reluctantly agrees to her daughter’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) wishes to temporarily move into the nearby Pine Grove retirement community.
Pitched as a retirement heaven on earth, Helen soon runs afoul of Pine Grove’s top clique of mean girls led by queen bee Janet (Curtin) and her bridge-playing pals Margot (Ann-Margret) and Sally (Devine). In a place where women outnumber the men, the women in Janet’s posse see newcomer Helen as a way to shake things up among the group. Before long Helen finds herself not only getting comfortable at Pine Grove, but falling for a romantic suitor named Dan (Caan) who pulls out all the stops in his attempts to woo her.
Though Queen Bees doesn’t reinvent formulaic plot points, the movie is noteworthy if only for its cast of senior actors. How rarely we get to see a main cast with a median age of 80 on screen with lives that amount to more than just background filler or comedic relief. Here, the trials and tribulations of the retirement community are just as prescient as those found in high school hallways, albeit with a little more back pain and health woes.
Directed by Michael Lembeck with a screenplay by Donald Martin, this group of actors seem to be having a ball together on-screen, most notably a bad toupee-topped Christopher Lloyd who hams it up as one of Pine Grove’s bachelor studs. Burstyn, too, is dynamic on-screen as Helen navigates the complications of fitting in and finding romance in her twilight years. Her scenes with Caan are filled with palpable chemistry and longing that further drive home to need for more romantic stories about couples finding their second chance at love in their later years. In a sweet nod to senior love, the end credits roll with pictures of elder couples who have found romance that might make Queen Bees viewers misty-eyed.
While some of the jokes are hit-or-miss, Queen Bees is a light-hearted romp that will especially charm an older audience.
Video with interviews: beond.tv
“Queen Bees” (PG-13) (3) [Drug use, suggestive material, and some language.] [Opens June 11 in theaters and available on various VOD platforms, and played June 9 as part of AARP’s Movies for Grownups.] — When a flower-loving widow (Ellen Burstyn) accidentally sets fire to her kitchen after locking herself out of her house and reluctantly moving temporarily into a retirement village with the help of her overprotective, divorced daughter (Elizabeth Mitchell) and kindhearted grandson (Matthew Barnes) in Michael Lembeck’s entertaining, heartwarming, well-acted, humor-sprinkled, predictable, star-dotted (Christopher Lloyd, French Stewart, Alec Mapa, Courtney Gains, Ricky Russert, and Cindy Hogan), 100-minute comedy, she finds herself eventually befriended by a clique of standoffish, bridge-playing women (Ann-Margret, Jane Curtin, and Loretta Devine) and attracted to a smooth-talking widower (James Caan).