Grandma – Film Review by Frank L.
Written and Directed by Paul Weitz
Stars: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden
Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is Grandma and Tomlin clearly relishes the casting as she is a girl of some maturity. Elle became of age in the swinging sixties, dabbled with men for a while but found her haven for 38 years with a woman called Vi, who is dead about a year when the story begins. Elle is a feisty seventy something year old poet, a tough lover as the first few scenes demonstrate with naïve Olivia (Judy Greer). She is a survivor. Unexpectedly her sole grandchild Sage (Julia Garner), who is in high school, turns up on her doorstep unannounced with a problem, she is pregnant. She needs money, US$630.00 for an abortion. Elle has no money but she is determined to get it by hook or by crook. The action all takes place in less than nine hours.
Elle accompanied by Sage tries to find the money. The various encounters involve a variety of acquaintances of Elle’s past and some strangers, who have the gamut of attitudes that are held in society to abortion. It is at times dark but Tomlin’s performance keeps the story firmly in the factual with little or no sermonising. People have different attitudes, albeit strongly held, to this issue. Elle represents one point of view!
Tomlin who is on screen for almost the entire film is excellent. She is funny, nasty, rude, kind, honest, devious, at all times unconventional and credible. Elle is a creation who somehow has managed to survive from the flower-power- happy sixties intact. But as a result of her survival, she takes shit from no one including her granddaughter. That leads Elle to visit her long lost as well as her immediate past. Tomlin is just a joy to watch. Her daughter, Judy (Marina Gary Harden) with whom she barely has a relationship, is a nightmare of a successful contemporary business woman. In her office as she fires and hires she maniacally paces on a treadmill. Driven does not describe her. She lives on a different planet to Elle. At one point, Elle in desperation even visits her heterosexual past in the form of an ex-boyfriend Karl (Sam Elliott) the only substantive male role.
Paul Weitz keeps the search for the money moving at a fair clip. He makes Tomlin at times behave outrageously but she rises to the challenge with zeal and with a glint in her eye. She is mesmerising. On this performance there are not many actors regardless of sex who compare with Tomlin for chutzpah.
Tomlin as Elle Reid tears apart ageism and sexism. Some performance!