Thelma - Photo Magnolia Pictures
Thelma – Photo Magnolia Pictures

Federal authorities warn that seniors are increasingly being targeted by scammers pretending to be their grandchildren and cajoling them to send money after a car crash, arrest or other catastrophe. That’s what happened to “Thelma,” an elderly widow living alone in Los Angeles. 

A fraudster claiming to be her grandson calls Thelma Post (June Squibb), telling her that he was in a terrible accident and needs her to send $10,000 immediately. Horrified, she complies, only to discover she’s been swindled. 

Her apprehensive daughter (Parker Posey) and son-in-law (Clark Gregg) cannot help, nor can the police. So this feisty grandma decides to get a gun and retrieve the money on her own.

Eluding her devoted, if directionless 24 year-old grandson Daniel (Fred Hechinger), who considers himself her ‘guardian angel,’ isn’t easy, but tenacious Thelma is determined to track down and confront the owner of the P.O. Box number where she mailed the cash.

She solves the transportation problem by ‘borrowing’ an electric mobility scooter that belongs to her late husband’s friend Ben (Richard Roundtree) who lives in a nearby ‘assisted living’ community, convincing him to come along for the ride.

Inspired by what happened to his own 103 year-old grandma (stick around for the credits to get a glimpse of her), screenwriter/director Josh Margolin adroitly spins a charming, surprisingly suspenseful tale, anchored by gutsy June Squibb. She was Bruce Dern’s ornery wife in “Nebraska” (2013), a role that earned her a Supporting Actor Oscar-nomination. 

Now 94, June Squibb has been making films for almost 70 years but this is her first starring role. She proudly claims to have done most of her own stunts and has great rapport with Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”), delivering this final performance before his death in Oct., 2023. Plus, there’s Malcolm McDowell as an old codger who appears later as Thelma’s trek unfolds. 

FYI: In 2022, nearly a half million American seniors were victims of elder fraud and complaints rose by 14% last year; the average victim lost $33,915, according to FBI reports.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Thelma” is a poignant, engaging 8, playing in theaters.

Lawmen Bass Reeves - Photo Paramount+
Lawmen: Bass Reeves – Photo Paramount+

After the resounding success of “Yellowstone” and its two prequels (“1883,” “1923”), Taylor Sheridan produced another Western series: “Lawmen: Bass Reeves.” 

Interweaving fact with fiction, its eight episodes follow the first Black deputy U.S. Marshal who served west of the Mississippi River. Currently vying for Emmy consideration as a limited/anthology series, its compelling lead actor is versatile David Oyelowo (“Selma”).

In 1862 during the Civil War, enslaved Bass Reeves (Oyelowo) was forced to fight alongside his owner, George Reeves (Shea Whigham); while serving in the Confederate Army, Bass acquired a reputation as a remarkable marksman.

Escaping enslavement, Reeves then lived among various Native tribes where he learned to speak their Cherokee, Creek and Seminole languages. 

After working as a paid gunslinger for the U.S. Government, empathetic Judge Isaac C. Parker (Donald Sutherland) awarded him his coveted badge in 1875. 

Settling as an earnest frontiersman/homesteader, he and his pragmatic wife Jennie (Lauren E. Banks) – along with their 10 children – faced continual racism and oppression during this post-Reconstruction era. 

Yet Reeves (1838-1910) with his Native American companion Billy Crow – was subsequently credited for arresting 3,000 ‘Wanted’ outlaws and felons during his three decade career, patrolling Arkansas, Texas and the Oklahoma Territory.

One of the more daring segments pits sturdy Reeves against an evil ex-Confederate Texas Ranger (Barry Pepper) who used Black prisoners as slave labor.

Credit Sheridan and showrunner/writer Chad Feehan (“Ray Donovan”) for exposing and debunking many clichés of the classic, over-sentimentalized Western genre – although folklore still credits heroic Reeves for inspiring the legend of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

“I really hope people reframe their knowledge of history and accept the fact that Black people were so instrumental in building this country,” Oyelowo told Entertainment Weekly. “This man was empowered, using it for the good of his community and his country.”

No one yet knows if there will be a second season for this intriguing series. If there is, it will undoubtedly pivot around other previously ignored American History trailblazers. 

Meanwhile on the Granger Gauge, “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” rustles up an action-packed 8, streaming on Paramount +.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.