Review: Grandma Is Short, Sweet, And Not What You Expect
Director: Paul Weitz
Screenwriter: Paul Weitz
Principal Cast: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, and Judy Greer
Summary: Lily Tomlin stars as Elle who has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when Elle’s granddaughter Sage unexpectedly shows up needing $600 bucks before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.
I didn’t know anything about Grandma until a fellow critic offered me a screener DVD to take a look at it. I tend to run short on free time during the week, and between my day job and two screenings, the only time I had to watch my copy of Grandma was right after my screening of Black Mass and mere minutes before I needed to leave for work. I have heard some very positive things from the press and it sounded like the perfect movie to pull me out of the mood I was in post Black Mass.
Grandma is a short, funny little movie that features an absolutely stellar performance by Lily Tomlin that leaves you smiling.
The premise of the movie is fairly basic, and that simplicity gives it room to grow in other areas. Elle (Lily Tomlin) is an older woman who has just broken up with her younger girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer) when her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) turns up and needs $600 by sundown. Elle doesn’t have any credit cards or money at the time so they run off together to try and collect the money in various ways. As they become more and more desperate for the money, they have to seek out more and more people for the money. The movie is all about what Elle and Sage can learn from these different people and how these situations affect each other. The encounters range from funny to heartwarming to sad as Elle lashes out at everything and everyone.
The performance that Tomlin gives here is truly something great. With a title like Grandma you would expect this to be some sort sweet family movie, but Elle is the opposite of that. She is a woman that is approaching her golden years with two middle fingers to the sky. She is a strong feminist who believes that she is in charge of her own life and no one else can tell her how to live it. She is a woman who is refusing to back down or be quiet for anyone. One of the first locations they stop at is a coffee shop and Elle and Sage are asked to leave because of what they are talking about. Elle refuses to take this lying down and instead slowly pours her coffee on the ground. She is brash, angry and so willing to do whatever it takes to help her granddaughter. She is also a woman in pain as she just lost her longtime lover a year and a half earlier.
The movie is very short, only seventy five minutes, and the brisk running time means we don’t spend too much time in each location or with each person. We find out what that person means to Elle or to Sage or to both, they ask for money and if it doesn’t work they move on to the next location. It mean that the movie never slows down too much or gets boring because there isn’t time to. They have a deadline to meet and there isn’t time to do much of anything. Writer/director Paul Weitz is probably best known for About A Boy,and hasn’t really worked on anything that is very good since. This, however, is a different movie and Weitz’s strong writing, combined with Tomlin’s performance, is a perfect combination.
Grandma is a movie where I spent the entire running time with a small smile on my face. The entire production is extremely endearing, whether the movie is being funny, serious, sad or any combination of the three. Tomlin is probably going to get an award nomination for her performance and it’s well deserved. If you’re looking for a quick and very good “drama-dy” on the nature of family and love, then Grandma is worth a look.