I love watching Diane Keaton on screen.
No matter what role she plays, or situation she maneuvers, this Oscar-winning actress keeps her performances fresh with her sly touch of humor and healthy dose of emotional spontaneity. For almost 50 years, since her debut on screen in “Lovers and Other Strangers,” she has made us want to go to the movies.

Keaton’s latest film, “Poms,” may make you, as well, want to go to a retirement community, at least for a quick visit to check out the cheerleaders. This oh-so-slight comedy may not offer much substance but it sure has style thanks to Keaton’s fun portrayal. She makes us chuckle, and hold back a few tears, as a retiree forced to face new realities about her life. Without limiting her performance to the words in the script, Keaton uses every well-developed technique she can imagine to bring this lady to life.
‘Poms’ opens with Keaton as Martha, a senior citizen in Manhattan, selling her possessions before heading to her new life at a peaceful, somewhat prefabricated, 55-plus village in Georgia. Soon we learn that, in addition to leaving her life as a teacher behind in New York, she has also left her doctor and her chemotherapy regimen. Vowing to live her final months without the weight of prognosis, Keaton quickly rediscovers an interest in cheerleading, something she never fulfilled as a teenager. And, no surprise, this determined woman decides this retirement community needs a cheerleading squad.
As light as the premise may sound, Keaton brings a sense of authenticity to the role, grounding the performance in the realities the character may face and the sense of humor she uses to survive. As a character, Martha refuses to feel sorry for herself; as an actress, Keaton insists on making the portrayal fresh and accessible. So rather than weight the portrayal with unnecessary dramatics, Keaton the actress, and Martha the character, consider all the good things that can still be experienced, including new friendships with women she recruits for her fun with the pom-poms.
Thank goodness for the delightful women who fill these roles, especially Jackie Weaver, the dynamic theater actress from Australia who radiates joy as Keaton’s next-door neighbor. As serious as Martha’s life can be, Weaver’s refusal to dwell in sadness brings a sense of joy to the proceedings. She is joined by veteran Rhea Perlman, who has great fun as one of the ladies in the village, and Celia Weston, an absolutely joy as the self-appointed police of the village standards. If only the script by Shane Atkinson and Zara Hayes took the time to examine some issues with more depth and helped us see inside how Keaton makes her choices. As fun as the film can be, we wish we could get to know these women better than the 90 minutes of running time permit.
Still, this is Keaton’s film, and any Keaton film is worth seeing. Now in her early 70s, this marvelous actress reconfirms her ability to create magic on screen. Even in a film as slight as “Poms,” Keaton shows us that, when the right actress plays the part, we can count on the results.

Film Nutritional Value: Poms


Content: Medium. The idea of senior citizens trying to become cheerleaders may be a slight premise but the cast makes us care.
Entertainment: Medium. While Diane Keaton and Jackie Weaver create magic, the script could go deeper to explore the issues these women face.
Message: High. The film celebrates what we can become no matter the age or obstacles we may experience.
Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to consider how to make major life choices — even as adults — can be worthwhile.
Opportunity for Dialogue: High. While the film could offer more depth, it provides a good opportunity to talk as a family about the issues of aging.
Poms is rated PG-13 for “some language and sexual references.” The film runs 1 hour and 31 minutes. It is playing in local theaters.

‘5 Flights Up:’ Keaton and Freeman shine in lukewarm comedy


My love for Diane Keaton on screen took me, in 2015, to this slight comedy for anyone who follows New York City real estate, savors any opportunity to watch Keaton and Morgan Freeman on screen, or melts when they see a cute dog in a movie.

“5 Flights Up” is a gentle look at how people who age consider where to live. And that’s about all that happens. So, anyone who needs special effects, action sequences or loud music to accompany the popcorn should move on. This little movie about quiet people may not serve quite enough.

Set in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, “5 Flights Up” finds the reliable Keaton and Freeman as senior citizens facing a dilemma: should they sell their walk-up apartment where they have lived for 40 some years? Without an elevator, climbing the five flights has become a chore for the couple and their aging canine, a captivating pooch who secures his own subplot. One weekend day they open their apartment for a niece who sells real estate (an exaggerated Cynthia Nixon) to bring in a collection of New Yorkers who love open houses. As Keaton and Freeman wonder, “where can we be safe and comfortable in our later years,” they watch a parade of eccentric characters react to the apartment they love despite its inconveniences.

Anyone familiar with New York City real estate would savor their dilemma after seeing this apartment. With those five flights come lots of room, a lovely view of the city and a serene rooftop garden. But Keaton and Freeman think that people their age should move to new places. They toss and turn about what to do as they remember how they found the apartment and each other (in a collection of too many flashbacks) and listen to current news reports of a possible terrorist plot on the Williamsburg Bridge (a distracting storyline). These unnecessary plot devices make the narrative as crowded as an over-filled closet that begs to be decluttered. Instead, the film should limit its to Keaton, Freeman and the choices they face. Their situation is captivating enough to fill the film’s 92 minutes. And we all face the choice of where to live when we fear we’re too old to stay in the place we call home.

It’s no surprise the stars are wonderful in roles that remind us why we love watching them at the movies. Keaton brings her strong instinct and intelligence to a woman who, long ago, decided to live outside the expectations for convention while Freeman thrives as a free spirit who simply wants to breathe. Unfortunately, writer Charlie Peters and director Richard Loncraine fail to let these actors fill the movie with their deliberations. Instead the creators introduce unnecessary conflicts — repeated encounters with potential buyers, a stuffy art gallery owner — that detract from the central story. These superfluous details get in the way of what is meaningful in a film that wants to be better.

Ultimately, “5 Flights Up” tells us less about real estate, aging or pet care than it offers a chance to savor these wonderful actors. Keaton and Freeman can do anything. I wish, this time, they had been given more.

“5 Flights Up” is rated PG-13 for “language and some nude images.” The film runs 92 minutes. It is available on demand and on line.