When Elle (Lily Tomlin) breaks up with her girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer), she tries brushing off the relationship like it never happened and tries to remember the person she used to be. Later that day, she receives a visit from her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner). Sage comes to her asking for money to take care of an unwanted pregnancy, too afraid to confront her mother, Elle’s estranged daughter Judy (Marcia Gay Harden). Unable to afford to help Sage, the two set out to try find money to help with the operation. Along the way, Elle confronts ghosts of her past, as well as her present.
Grandma is a film that I honestly I had never even heard of until I saw it was going to be showing at my local theater. Upon watching the trailer it looked very hilarious and heartfelt. When I finally saw it, it did not disappoint. The film, despite its very heavy subject matter, brings on very big laughs all the way through and does feature a lot of heartfelt moments. The film runs at only an hour and twenty minutes, but it succeeds at moving at a very brisk pace and covers plenty of ground. We follow Elle as a writer who goes by her own thoughts and feelings regarding life and people, which leads her to a life of loneliness, but this doesn’t bother her. It is only when her terrified and sheltered granddaughter appears that she begins to put others first. One of the major perks of the film is watching Tomlin and Garner have their relationship build and watch their adventure together. They find themselves moving from one hysterical encounter to another, all leading to their final stop that forces them to confront their lives and the people in them. The abortion aspect of the film may turn people off, but in the long run it deals with a subject in a very realistic light that most films try to tip toe around. It’s not preachy by any means, but it gives insight to the matter while also trying to make the overall story humorous and light-hearted and just trying to walk a fine line. In the long run, it’s not an abortion story, it is more about family values and not taking advantage of those in your life.
The cast provides a terrific performances all the way through. Lily Tomlin of course knocks it out of the park in one of my favorite performances of the year. Tomlin provides constant laughs as the pessimistic, narcissistic, and confrontation grandmother who is not afraid to speak her mind. While she provides a lot of comedy in the film, Tomlin also conveys the hidden pain she’s feeling perfectly. Julia Garner is delight as Sage, throughout the whole film, we see her portray this terrified young girl that has no idea what to do with her situation and her family life. Garner plays her in the most realistic way possible and we can slowly see the changes going through her in the film, becoming stronger, but not losing her innocence. Also providing an excellent as always performance is Marcia Gay Harden as Sage’s controlling and judgmental mother. While Harden has a small amount of screen time, she nails the role when she does appear. She can play bitter and bitchy one minute but then change in an instant as someone who feels genuinely lost as to who she really is. Finally, Judy Greer is also one to be noted as Tomlin’s ex-girlfriend. Greer has her moments of comedy and perfects it, but she also expresses the character’s concern for Elle and wanting to get deep down into what makes her the way she is. The cast overall is just plain fantastic and play off of each other extremely well.
Grandma is a film that wouldn’t surprise me if it goes unnoticed, but it’s one that I feel can be appreciated in various aspects in terms of its story and subject matter. All of this is made even better with the incredible performances, especially by Lily Tomlin.