Queen Bees: Is the Story of the Ellen Burstyn Movie True?

With Michael Lembeck occupying the director’s chair, ‘Queen Bees’ is a 2021 romantic-comedy movie that stars Ellen Burstyn as the independent and widowed senior citizen Helen Wilson who decides to temporarily move to a nearby retirement community — Pine Grove Senior Community — while her house undergoes repair. To her surprise, she finds out that the community is just like high school, with different cliques, fiercely headstrong widows, bullying girls, and flirtatious gentlemen all over the campus. At first, the high school-like traits of the community make her regret her decision to sign up for it and long for the solitude of her home.

However, Helen begins to accept the fact that it is never too late to step into new friendships and give love another chance, as she strikes a chord with newcomer Dan. The comedy-drama film, featuring James Caan, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, Jane Curtin, Loretta Devine, and Elizabeth Mitchell, alongside Ellen, sheds light on the importance of second chances, friendship, and love even in the later stages of one’s life, sparking questions about the tale’s authenticity in the minds of the audience.

Queen Bees is Inspired by Real Life Experiences

Yes, ‘Queen Bees’ is based on a true story. The hilarious tale of romance and friendship has its roots in producer Harrison Powell’s wife Sarah Powell’s grandmother’s journey of finding love again after she reluctantly moved into a retirement community as a widow. Powell collaborated with Donald Martin to weave the enthralling story of an elderly woman based on the real events that took place in the life of the grandmother of the producer’s wife. In a statement, co-producer Dominique Telson said, “As a witness to the joy that finding love at 80 can bring, we knew it was a film we wanted to make and the amazing cast really brought it to life.”

Harrison Powell witnessed ‘Queen Bees’ unfold in front of his eyes as a family affair in the 2010s. When his wife’s grandmother, Sparky Moredock, tragically lost her husband on October 24, 2013, she made the decision to enroll in a retirement community. Upon moving there, Sparky couldn’t believe that the way things worked in the community was reminiscent of her old high school days, including the cliques, rivalries, friendships, flirting, and pranks. During a conversation with DirecTV Insider in May 2021, Powell explained, “Like our main character, Helen, Sparky wanted nothing to do with any of it.”

The Sandy Springs native added, “But after her initial resistance, she came to realize that it’s never too late to make new friends, to laugh, to go skinny-dipping or to fall in love. She eventually met a wonderful man named Don and they got married two years ago.” As a production executive at Astute Films, Powell saw potential in the story and pursued it. He wanted the entire world to hear Sparky’s inspirational and heartwarming tale and instill renewed hope and encouragement in other people that remaining open to new connections and optimistic at every age might lead to some life-changing friendships and relationships.

Confident about the tale of his wife’s grandmother’s happily ever after, he went to the company’s president — Fred Bernstein — and put forward the idea for a film based on her experiences. Fortunately, Powell’s idea resonated with Bernstein and he gave the thumbs up for Powell to go for it. Bernstein explained, “We believed it would find the right balance between heartwarming, meaningful, humorous, and emotional. It was a story that everyone at Astute could relate to.”

Next, even Astute’s Vice President of Development and Production — Dominique Telson — was in favor of greenlighting the story of Sparky. He said, “Astute wants to make films that matter and this has a message that matters: It’s never too late to enjoy life and move forward.” So, taking into consideration all the above-mentioned factors, it would be safe to say that ‘Queen Bees’ takes us on an authentic journey of an elderly widowed woman who finds new friends and love in a retirement community of all places.

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