Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Mean Girls: Queen Bees
Yes, the headline says it all: the new octagenarian comedy Queen Bees is, in essence, Mean Girls set in an old folks’ home. The filmmakers could have called it Mean Golden Girls, which would have also been accurate.
The adorable comedy follows Helen (the always wonderful, Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn), a recently-widowed woman who, after accidentally setting her house on fire, moves into a retirement community while her home undergoes renovation. Helen detests living in a retirement home, albeit one that more closely resembles a five-star resort and spa than a nursing facility. Adding to her wounded pride, Helen immediately clashes with the “queen bees” of the home: the chilly Janet (Jane Curtin), the sexpot Margot (Ann-Margret) and the ever-blunt Sally (Loretta Devine). When Helen joins the girls for bridge, she and Sally develop a tender friendship. The arrival of the handsome suitor Dan (James Caan) also endears her new surroundings to Helen…until she and her three bridge partners uncover evidence he’s involved in a nefarious plot.
Ok, so the premise is thin and the story, predictable. That doesn’t mean Queen Bees fails to entertain. On the contrary, an excuse to see these performers in anything gives us enough reason to watch. Ellen Burstyn might be the greatest living actress, and here, she reminds viewers why: she gives a deep, moving performance as Helen, a woman trying to make the most of her final years. Burstyn and Devine (who, along with Curtin, seems a bit too young for her part) also have unexpected, magnetic chemistry together. An (allegedly) improvised scene of the pair in bed smoking a joint shows both performers at their best: besides getting some of the biggest laughs in the movie, the pair show the nuance and humanity of their characters. Queer icon Ann-Margret also has fun as the sultry Margot; her scenes with the community’s resident stud (Christopher Lloyd) also produce some howlers.
Queen Bees has all the elements of The Golden Girls and Mean Girls, right down to a pair of young, hunky heartthrobs. Here, they come in the form of Peter (Matthew Barnes), Helen’s doting, intellectual grandson, and Pablo (Ricky Russert), the ladies’ yoga instructor with a penchant for losing strip poker (we’re not complaining). Silly but sincere, featuring a cast of glorious talent and some fun, bitchy zingers, Queen Bees offers up a delightful diversion for anyone depressed by life’s slings and arrows.
Now in theatres and available On Demand.