It’s funny, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Lily Tomlin movie. Is that bad? Does that make me a bad gay? Well, it doesn’t matter, because this film is a hell of an initiation.
Tomlin plays Elle, a cranky academic still grieving over the death of her long-term lover; she seems to have few friends, and is barely on speaking terms with her daughter. Out of the blue, her teenaged granddaughter Sage shows up seeking money for an abortion. Elle is broke at the moment and has cut up her credit cards, so off they go to try to extract money from her old friends, ex-friends, ex-lovers and complete strangers before Sage’s appointment that very evening.
Grandma is a brilliant, hilarious ride: acidly funny like only Lily Tomlin can deliver, but also deeply moving in parts such as when Elle reminisces about her life with Violet or reconciles with her latest ex. And, just as importantly, it raises a bunch of points about the reality of getting an abortion, but wove them into the story so well I didn’t realise what it was doing until hours later: the issue of money or lack thereof, how supportive the baby daddy will be, actually having a clinic within easy access, dealing with guilt and fear of going to hell you never thought you had, getting judged by pro-birth activists or your own mother (for different reasons), having a support network…
Well played, movie. Well played.
Other lessons I learned: we’re all flawed and messy. No matter what we tell ourselves, no matter how successful we are in our careers, whether we’re neurotic perfectionists,
philanthropes misanthropes or just confused teens, we’re all muddling along the best we can. And in a way, that’s a good thing. It means there’s always room to grow, to be inspired. People who think they know it all would be really boring. Or picketing abortion clinics, maybe.
A few more thoughts:
Hello, all-star cast! Sam Elliott, Laverne Cox, Judy Greer, John Cho, Nat Wolff… All spot-on, even the one-scene wonders. And really, wouldn’t it take stars of that calibre to keep up with Lily Tomlin? Julia Garner, playing Sage, was… all right. She held her own, but didn’t really shine.
One little nitpick, which I guess was unavoidable: the plot seemed forced to me. I mean, how likely is it that Elle wouldn’t have any available cash? Mind you, it turned out to be justified pretty well and played into Elle’s character, so it all worked out in the end.