Film review by Maysa Moncao of the comedy drama about a young woman who asks her unconventional grandmother to fund an abortion.
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Director: Paul Weitz. Sony Pictures (80 mins).
Cast and credits
Producers: Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Terry Douglas.
Writer: Paul Weitz.
Camera: Tobias Datum.
Music: Joel P. West.
Sets: Brittany Ruiz.
Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Sam Elliott, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Pena .
Aceebic aging poet Elle Reid (Tomlin) mourns the death of her longtime partner even as she reels from a recent breakup; yet she must table her misanthropy when her teenage granddaughter Sage (Garner) turns up unexpectedly on her doorstep in need of some money and a ride.
What ensues ia an urban road-trip in Elle’s vintage car to visit old friends and flames, rattling skeletons and digging up secrets all over town as she unlikely duo try to rustle up cash.
If you are at a cinema line and you have two minutes to decide what you are going to watch next, pay attention to its title. Even if you ignore that the director had previously worked on American Pie, and that the main actress was one of Robert Altman’s muses in the 70s (check Nashville, 1975), you would have nailed it if you got stuck on the word “grandma”. This is a movie specifically written to Lily Tomlin and to everything she is able to deliver in the role of a sharp-tongued, foul-mouthed poet in her 70s.
Director Weitz got lucky because it has been an incredible year for Lily. Grandma previewed in Tribeca in April, when I had a chance to watch it and take part of the Q&A at the end of the screening. This week she has been nominated for the Golden Globe for this role (Actress In a Motion Picture, Comedy) as well as for the TV series Grace and Frankie. So it is impossible to deny this is Tomlin’s film. It is supremely enjoyable, but if you are expecting more from other aspects of the film, give it up.
The film takes place in a single day. Her granddaughter (Garner) is pregnant and has decided to have an abortion. Both grandmother and granddauhter have a troubled relationship with Judy (Harden), who is Sage’s mother and Elle’s daughter. In fact Judy is “the successful enterpreneur”, and pretty much ignores her family life, though in the end she surprises us all.
So Sage prefers to trust Elle as her mother figure and confident. The funny thing about the situation is that Elle is a non-typical grandmother. Her sexuality now tends to drive for same sex partners and she has cut up her credit card to make a wind chime.
All supporting actors get their chance to shine, but the movie is centred in Elle’s conflicts. Lily says she’s had uncountable conversations with Weitz trying to explain why Elle is broke. It is very clear to the audience that the construction of Elle’s character received a great contribution of Tomlin’s experience. Sage awakes in her a maternal instinct which enriches the story with the dynamics of the feminine world. Sensibility and strength are part of the same pack of emotions and the script touches the theme of abortion in a very delicate way.
Grandma underlines the circumstances behind an ardent feminist. The three generations of the family are feminists without being pamphleteers. There is no doubt that “feminism” is the hot issue in Hollywood.
See the official trailer on Youtube.