Queen Bees Review: Ellen Burstyn And James Caan Starrer Is A Wannabe 'Ikiru'

Here's our review of Ellen Burstyn and James Caan starrer Queen Bees

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Queen Bees Review: Ellen Burstyn And James Caan Starrer Is A Wannabe 'Ikiru'
Remember the 1952 Japanese classic Ikiru about aging with grace? Well, Queen Bees is also a meditation on mortality, albeit one that is severely deprived of subtlety and stymied by stock situations and  characters. Though the cast is impressive it isn’t a pleasant experience to see the great Ellen Burstyn (remember her magnificent Oscar-winning performance in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More?) and the one-time sex symbol Anne Margaret playing octogenarians.

It took me a while to recognize the slouching old man who plays Burstyn’s love interest. It was none other than James Caan the rebellious Corleone son in The Godfather, now a faint replica of his fiery self.

To see this once young and  charismatic cast reduced to a wintry wispy  shadow  of the past is heartbreaking,  much more than  the film which  tries to be  a cheerful treatise on the old and ends up looking like an  evening for the old where the veteran cast tries to have fun with numbers.  

Burstyn is Helen who lives all alone and can’t get  along with her daughter Laura(Elizabeth Mitchell).The  daughter admittedly comes across  as a bit of a party pooper, much to Helen’s (and ours) annoyance. Helen  must  be moved to an old folks’ home when her own residence needs repairs.She would rather stay with strangers than with her own child. (I can see many parents  empathizing with that).

 The  rest of the film is an over-cute  under-cooked autumnal poolside party with wheelchairs replacing  pool chairs. While Ellen Burstyn is  just passable in this impossibly artificial upbeat drama, the one  to watch is standup comic Jane Curtin as  the cranky unpleasant Janet whose loss of  faith is attributable to loneliness.

 There is no dearth of emotional pockets  in the plot. These are  never explored  nor given  a chance to grow organically in a plot that seems  anxious to score with the audience but  fails to  cloak  its  excitement. The false exuberance of the  narrative soon  gets to you. Sequences such as the one where Helen and  her black friend Sally (Loretta  Divine) whip up a storm in  the bedroom, are only meant to spotlight the screenwriter’s desperation to show  us that the old too can have fun  if they try.

I totally get that. And I am one with the basic premise of  this old-is-gold film. But the execution and  the characters are so  shallow and  uninspiring they seem to be advocating chyawanprash rather than living a truly zestful life. 

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