Aug 26, 2015


It's always good to see Lily Tomlin in action, even in a creaky little movie that reads like a paean to Planned Parenthood (which needs all the love it can get these days).
Written and directed by Paul Weitz, Grandma is about Elle, a cranky old lesbian poet (Tomlin), who likes to alienate people. She has just broken up with her younger lover (Judy Greer), when Sage (Julia Garner), her teenage granddaughter, arrives asking for money for an abortion.
That for the better part of an hour nobody can come up with the $600 needed to do the deed stretches belief, and this is the kind of formulaic writing that plagues the movie. Elle doesn't have it, having cut her credit cards to shreds, a maverick move if there ever was one.
The movie is a little road trip in search of the dough, in which we learn that Elle has been through that road before. We are told that Sage's mother is a monster, and Marcia Gay Harden tries her best to make her so, although I never understood what she did for a living. She is some kind of neurotic Hollywood executive. The lack of specifics make the movie feel undercooked. And unfortunately, Garner is no match for Tomlin. As underwrittten, she is a typically sullen, uninteresting teen without character.
The best part of the movie is Elle's visit to an old flame (Sam Elliot, doing his best work in years), from whom she tries to get the money. It also provides the hokiest, paint by numbers drama.
Tomlin is funny and caustic, and the movie has some laughs, but it feels weirdly stilted, as if it's not in synch with its own comedic rhythms.
As much as I applaud the right to choose, I don't necessarily thrill to a movie that so transparently aims to pontificate on the importance of a woman's right to do so. A liberal screed does not a compelling movie make.

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