SIFF 2024 Reaction – THELMA & An Opening Night I Will Never Forget

As I mentioned many times in my preview article, this is my first time attending the Seattle International Film Festival but immediately I can see and feel the community here. I don’t really know anyone here, but in one day I struck up conversations with several regular festivalgoers, some of whom who have been attending for over 15 years. So clearly, I have some catching up to do!

I was invited by the festival to check out THELMA, the opening night movie at the Paramount Theatre. This was the same venue that premiered PAST LIVES last year and where I first heard about the Cinerama reopening. So I knew this was an important night and this is also the only festival I know of that removes the screen and sound system and has the after-party take place directly in the theatre itself, along with a selection of food trucks handing out free samples after the show.

I have a quirk about myself in that I get incredibly excited when I see a movie in a cinema for the first time. Not the MOVIE, but the VENUE that it shows in. On the first day of SIFF, I was able to see TWO theatres with not only the famous Paramount Theatre, but also was able to attend some press screenings at the SIFF Cinema Uptown earlier in the day. Both theatres have been around for nearly 100 years in one form or another, with the Uptown remaining as a movie house and the Paramount converting to a live theater. And though the Seattle Cinerama was taken over by the festival, the Paramount was the original 3-strip Cinerama venue that debuted the format in the city in 1953! How’s that for a bit of trivia!

The opening night was one of the livliest opening gala parties I have ever attended in my 20+ years of attending festivals. That I could just hang out in the same theatre after and meet Miss June Squibb on stage (there’s documented picture evidence below) along with mingling with festival regulars and getting some food and snacks after the show was an absolute kick-off to the start of the festival. Now I just have 10 days of movies to attend!

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

THELMA (USA, dir. Josh Margolin, 97 minutes)

About: John Wick had his dog. “The Dude” had his rug. For Thelma Post, the MacGuffin of this debut feature from writer/director Josh Margolin is a phone call gone bad. Thelma is a fiercely independent 93-year-old (the incandescent fellow nonagenarian June Squibb) who falls for the oldest old-person trick in the book: the telephone scam. After unwittingly sending $10,000 to a criminal who she thought was her grandson, Thelma takes matters into her own hands, much to the chagrin of her daughter (Parker Posey) and son-in-law (Clark Gregg), who think maybe it’s time for some assisted-living help. Finding an Ocean’s Eleven-style team is hard at the senior center, so Thelma recruits her friend Ben (Richard Roundtree, in his final role), who reluctantly allows Thelma to borrow his snazzy scooter. Together, they race to intercept the money before the criminals escape. While the premise could’ve descended into superhuman senior slapstick, Margolin wisely makes Thelma and Ben believable characters who overcome the realities of infirmity with their wits. While much hilarity is mined from 5 mph scooter chases and hearing-aid spy equipment, Thelma is a charming crowd-pleaser that respects the difficulties of old age and gives Roundtree a proper career coda. Can you dig it? (Credit: Randy Woods)

Jason’s Reaction: Ten minutes into THELMA, I was immediately struck in just how much we need the human comedy more often in the movies, as well as more movies about seniors being funny. This absolutely delightful comedic feature from filmmaker Josh Margolin takes a simple premise of a woman losing money to a scam and makes it something even more and more or a road trip of a friendship between Squibb and Richard Roundtree, who is simply great here in his (sadly) final performance. There are also solid performances by Parker Posey and Clark Gregg both exasperated by Thelma’s shenaningans, but there’s also a really nice performance here too by Fred Hechinger as her grandson. THELMA is based off a real woman named Thelma who is still alive at 104, and is very close to the real person here, so it comes as no surprise that June Squibb, who I have been a fan of since her Oscar nominated turn in NEBRASKA and have since adored her in supporting roles, is more than worth the price of admission here in her leading role and still has it at 94 years of age! Let’s see a few more leading roles from this amazing lady!

SIFF Media

A HUGE thanks to Magnolia Pictures, SIFF PR and the festival for inviting me to check out my first ever SIFF opening gala! It was a blast! Be sure to point your browser to for more festival fun!

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