|Sage (Julia Garner) and Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) in GRANDMA Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics|
2015, 80 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
While an overall slight film, Paul Weitz’ Grandma is still a complete delight, and a film that is both relevant and needed. Snatched up by Sony Pictures Classics after its Sundance premiere, Grandma could have a successful theatrical run in August, and even land its star, Lily Tomlin, an Oscar nomination come next year.
Grandma tells the story of Elle (Tomlin), a misanthropic writer who breaks up with her girlfriend (Judy Greer), before having her granddaughter (Julia Garner) show up at her door asking Elle for money for an abortion. The problem is that Elle doesn’t have any money, which forces the two women to go across LA trying to find ways to come up with the abortion money.
Grandma is Tomlin’s show, and she completely owns it. The depth of feeling, empathy, and honesty that Tomlin brings to this role shows why she’s still one of the bravest actresses working today. Tomlin has lost none of the edge and charm that have made her an icon, and with impeccable comedic timing and heart to spare, she is a pleasure to watch.
The supporting cast is also strong. Garner is wonderful opposite Tomlin, providing a bit of sweetness against Tomlin’s bitterness. Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Sam Elliott, Laverne Cox, and the late Elizabeth Peña also give fine performances.
Grandma is very much an important film for the film industry. It’s a distinctly feminist film that has an iron-willed elderly lesbian character at its center. Characters like Elle are usually not depicted on film, so to have a film centered around a character like her is amazing. Elle is not a stereotype, but rather a flawed, complex human being. Hollywood needs to take a hint from this film. Additionally, it’s refreshing to see the topic of abortion dealt with so matter-of-factly. So many women get abortions, so to see it treated as simply a part of life is very commendable.
Overall, Grandma is a highly enjoyable 80 minutes. While I wish it had more emotional impact, Grandma is still a film well worth viewing, especially for Tomlin’s performance. In the midst of a festival full of heavy, dark films, it’s nice to see something as sweet and charming as Grandma. This film will play especially well with older audiences, but will also connect with middle-aged adults and teens as well.