CRUMBLIES… 2 crumblies

Okay, look, as a follow-up to the joys of I Got Life! / Aurore (2017) and its take on the menopause, we gave a second film a go. It promised much: fun, comedy, a cast of middle-aged women talking to middle-aged women. And perhaps that is what this film does, but it’s in a manner so loud, crass and in-your-face clunky that the whole experience is more than a bit dispiriting. It could have been about hot flushes, or flashes as the Americans insist, but, no, it’s really a sports movie about a bunch of under-dogs clubbing together to overcome self-imposed odds. For The Hot Flashes are a basketball team, raising cash to save the local mammogram van (look at your health care, America; really, look hard), and fending off their daughters’ fit and healthy teams to do so.

The driving force is Brooke Shields‘ Beth, introduced in hot flush and wrinkly close-up. She’s beautiful, says the shot, but she’s of a certain age, people. She’s married to Eric Roberts‘ Laurence, and therein lies some bits of drama so obvious they hurt. For he gives off unfaithful with an easy smile and well-tended hair, and, oh, by screwing around. Which plays out like a needless punishment of Beth who is busy being a good sort and – pissed at the impending closure of said mammogram van – does the Carry On Sergeant, Fully Monty, and so on thing…

As luck may have it, there’s a bunch of middle-aged character actors who never left town and are good to become a team. Virginia Madsen‘s Clementine flirts it up as a loosely-moralled cashier; Daryl Hannah‘s Ginger gives quality closeted lesbian (open secret, sweet heart, waiting for confidence and the safety of the group to be outed); Camryn Manheim‘s Roxie gives good leathered-up and gruff enemy of Clementine (it seems to be about old mistakes and rage); caricatures, all. But rich in building support and teamly friendships. Even the town nearly-mayor, Wanda Sykes as Florine, takes the social risk and joins the team…

Cue battling at the school’s sports hall until – late in the day – they get banned. Of course, by that point, the obstacles are starting to feel a tad deus ex convenient and every damn one of the characters a token of their kind – including Shields’ wounded saint. Which made me very tense indeed.

You know the story already: the women meet up, they bicker, they practice, they meet obstacles, not least meanness from their youthful competitors – bravo Jessica Rothe / Rothenberg as teen bitch Millie, earning her defeat. The women are coached to relative game readiness by Mark Povinelli as Paul the vet-coach. Of restricted growth, his presence feels uncomfortably comic in places, the game being one of leaping to put balls through baskets. It’s odd to see the friendship signalling, passed unnaturally between the women, turned on him. Anyway – their battling pays off…

Hmmm.

This film is nothing like as meaningful, or even as funny, as I Got Life! / Aurore (2017). It says more about friendship than the matter and manner of the menopause. Edging into the territory of Calendar Girls (2003), it somehow drops the ball at every moment.  Where the women on the court, despite the laws of health, credibility and physics, run towards victory, The Hot Flashes just doesn’t. And that’s a shame. Some nice character-acting, mind.

The last sound I heard as the credits rolled? Mad Maud tutting – long, loud and bitterly.