Queen Bees (2021) is a poorly scripted, haphazardly directed low budget film about the social and political structures within an old folks home. There’s a recurring theme throughout the film of lives being renewed via friendships and love that seems to be the bread and butter of films about the elderly. Queen Bees isn’t without its charms but for the most part it’s pretty un-incredible, failing to live up to the hype of being Mean Girls set in a retirement home.
The most original moments in the film occur on a minute scale, but luckily these brief glimpses of genius and talent tend to bleed over into the lackluster moments that occur both before and after. It’s in the close-ups of James Caan and Ellen Burstyn as Caan stammers out his lines that Queen Bees actually touches upon human truth. There’s a subtle intimacy here that exists on an entirely different plane than the rest of the film which is more than content to pander to audience expectations. When Caan and Burstyn lock eyes all of their dramatic powers which made them legendary in the seventies sneaks into frame, imbuing a few seconds of Queen Bees with real cinema.
Unfortunately other elements of the film are just so bad that they’re probably going to equal the film’s subtle virtues in one’s memory. There’s the filmmakers’ stiff attempts to align Burstyn’s character with the contemporary left that are laughable and Matthew Barnes turn as Burstyn’s grandson that makes the acting in a Disney Channel film look like it belonged in the Globe theater. However what is worst of all is how wasted Loretta Devine is in this film.
I’m willing to admit that maybe I am too young to find real pleasure in the romance and kinship that Queen Bees has to offer. Seated a few rows behind me at the screening I attended were two elderly women who were quite audible when it came to expressing their delight with this film. Somehow I suspect that if one goes into this film with a critical eye then one is going to be tremendously disappointed.