Richard Roundtree and June Squibb in a scene from “Thelma” 2024. Magnolia Pictures

A long time ago, 70 years, a little blonde actress June Squibb started her career in the theatre at the famed Cleveland Play House.

I was there starting mine.

Later, June migrated to Herbert Berghof’s acting group in lower Manhattan.

I was there.

I don’t remember her that well, we were both young and beginning a love affair with the American stage.

Here we are after all those years. June is enjoying a fun, late career, with a Sundance Film Festival winner, as I am dancing with a keyboard.


“Thelma” — the plot is from writer Josh Margolin that attempts to make an action figure out of a “not-so-sweet” old lady with an ancient name like Thelma.

Let’s be brief and get to the high points and cast a 93-year-old widow, firmly planted in an old chair trying not to mess up a piece of needle point.

Thelma has a daughter, Gail (Parker Posey), and her husband, Alan (Clark Gregg), and a messed up, confused but loving grandson, Danny (Fred Hechinger), who, if I got this right, is just out of love with his girlfriend, so he spends a lot of time with a forgiving, loving grandma Thelma.

After a bit of time getting to know the two of them, Thelma gets a late night telephone call from Danny telling her that he has been arrested and needs $10,000 to get bailed out.

Thelma, unlike most aging, gullible seniors in America, jotting off a check. Say what? 10,000 bucks?

When Thelma and her kids try to call Alan only to find no answer to his cell (he’s been sleeping) and then up he turns, the scam button has been pushed. Now, writer/director Margolin hits his panic button and fast-forward key and we’re off.


A panicked Thelma calls a near and dear best-friend Ben, and suddenly we’re in the presence of one of our old friends, the great and sadly deceased Richard Roundtree better known to all of us as “Shaft.” Now that’s a friend indeed.

Ben brings a “shaft” of light and free air into Thelma’s darkness by “providing” her with a splendid bright red motor scooter.

After Margolin treats our seniors with highway and dark back streets, death twists and turns, he cops out, sort of, with a weak villain, not an international invisible network of bad guys in a grey cloud of key strokes, where most scammers dwell, but in a back street, run-down junk shop run by amateurs, (a senior citizen Malcolm McDowell of all people) and a voiceless punk kid. These are easy pickings for senior sleuths like Ben and Thelma to confront.

At one point, Margolin gives us a sad scene where Ben and Thelma visit a lonely woman named Mona (a wonderful Bunny Levine) who seems to be impaled on a recliner, and is set on caring for herself with no one in sight.

All players in “Thelma” deliver the goods Margolin provides, especially the heroine, my old friend June Squibb who once again, after a very long career, still runs with a full tank of energy.

It was good to see senior citizen Malcolm McDowell (“Clockwork Orange” 1971) even in a small cartoonish part where he never leaves his chair, and Richard Roundtree, making his exit with poise and dignity.


“Thelma” is a warm, sweet, summer bouquet of joy for movie-going seniors too old to sit through Ryan Gosling’s “The Fall Guy.”

“Thelma” opens Friday, June 21, at the Maine Film Center in Waterville.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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