A short, sweet, wonderfully honest and funny dramedy.
Movie Review #1,026
Sony Pictures Classics
1 hour, 19 minutes
Rated R (language and some drug use)
Released September 18, 2015
Directed by Paul Weitz
Writer: Paul Weitz
Starring Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Peña, and Skya Chanadet
“I like being old, young people are stupid.”
Elle (Lily Tomlin) in “Grandma”
“Grandma” is a significant volte-face for writer-director Paul Weitz. You don’t expect this kind of small-scale, wonderfully honest dramedy from the guy who directed “American Pie”, not to mention “Little Fockers” or “Admission”. None of those even begin to compare with “Grandma”. Few Hollywood-tailored films do. Its $600,000 budget and 78-minute running time offer perfect affirmation that less is more. And that’s just the first thing that’s perfect about this movie.
The titular character is Elle (Lily Tomlin), a lesbian who lost longtime partner four months ago and has just ended a meaningless relationship with her rebound. We can be sure that there’s enough on her plate already when her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), enters with another dilemma: she’s unexpectedly pregnant, she doesn’t want to have the baby, she’s scheduled an abortion for late in the afternoon, and she needs $630 to pay for it. She can’t use her credit card because her mother confiscated it. She’s afraid to ask her self-absorbed mother, and frankly, so is her grandmother. Her grandmother has just paid off all her debt and made a wind chime out of the shreds of her credit card, and now she has about fifty bucks to her name. The baby’s father refuses to have anything to do with the situation. Elle and Sage set out on a road trip to raise $630, only to watch the obstacles compound even more.
“Grandma” is unabashedly progressive. It covers abortion and, to a slightly lesser extent, lesbianism in an entertaining and candid light, but does not appear to take sides on either. How you view these issues on a left-right spectrum does not matter. The film doesn’t want us to care that these are politically controversial subject matter. They’re components of the plot and characters–those are what the film wants us to care about. Frankly, it’s pretty difficult not to care when the characters are this likable. Julia Garner’s performance is the paragon delivery of a teenage character, defined no less by her wisdom than her impulsive behavior. However, it’s Lily Tomlin that really knocks it out of the park here. Her unforgettable performance as the titular character deserves an Oscar. The sweet, brutal honesty in her accord with Sage terrifically complements the sarcastic remarks she makes to most other characters throughout the film. Her asshole personality makes for the most quotable film in years. If you want an idea of how much she stands out in “Grandma”, I implore you to watch the trailer…and then, of course, the movie.