"Grandma" Review

On the scale of cinematic grandmothers, Grandma falls somewhere in between Ramona Calvert, Sandra Bullock’s sweet, but still tough mother in Hope Floats and the rapping grandmother featured in The Wedding Singer. The film has humor and heart — and just enough grit to make you feel like you got a good talking to from the sweetest woman alive.

Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) was not expecting her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) to show up when she did. She and her girlfriend had just broken up that morning and Elle was looking forward to a maudlin day of vacuuming and reminiscing about the past, as most of us tend to do post-breakup. Eighteen-year-old Sage is pregnant and although she has scheduled her abortion — for 5:45pm that day — she doesn’t have the cash to pay for it. Pushing her present heartache aside, Elle ushers Sage into her aging car and their road trip begins.

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Grandma immediately separates itself in a moment not often seen on screen: a woman, over the age of 50, sobbing in the shower, after a breakup. The emotional reality of this scene is one typically reserved for the younger set, perhaps a grieving young mother who just lost her child, but never for a baby boomer who has fallen out of love. Hidden within the film’s witty dialogue and sun-soaked landscape is a statement about where different generations come together, and where they divide. The film takes on ageism, sexuality, and women’s rights without throwing them in your face. Instead, each topic is addressed through realistic, laugh-out-loud performances delivered by a primarily female cast.

There is no denying that the major force behind this delectable film is comedienne extraordinaire, Lily Tomlin. Speaking after the screening I attended, Paul Weitz (director and writer of the film) discussed how Tomlin was the voice in his head as he wrote the script. After working with her in Admission, Weitz was eager to work again with Tomlin’s edgy, transgressive and ageless style. His courting paid off and Tomlin agreed to work on the film, which was shot in 19 days with a budget under $600,000. 

Tomlin’s performance just doesn’t quit for the entirety of the film. No matter who she is playing out the scene with, from her daughter Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), to Sage’s boyfriend Cam, played by new teen heartthrob Nat Wolff (Fault in Our Stars/Paper Towns), Tomlin brings an unmatched level of humor and truth. She’s definitely the coolest grandma on the block!

Grab your mom, your sister or your best friend and go see this film as soon as you can! Better yet, use all that birthday money from over the years and bring your grandmother.

Rating: A