Friday, September 25, 2015

Movie Review #314: "Grandma" (2015)

Ticket Price: $9.75
Director: Paul Weitz
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
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Desperate for help and having a strained relationship with her mother Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), Sage (Julia Garner) shows up at her grandma Elle's (Lily Tomlin) house begging for $600+ dollars for an abortion. Broke and without a credit card, Elle and Sage scurry about town trying to find the money from anyone and everyone they know.

When you think about your grandma, is she someone you could see yourself turning to for help with tracking down money for an abortion? Most people, we're willing to wager, would say a resounding no to this question. Lily Tomlin in "Grandma" is that type of grandparent, and hilariously and raucously so. Her performance as Elle, a lesbian who finds herself stuck trying to find $600 for her granddaughter Sage, played by Julia Garner, while in the middle of a break-up with her short-term girlfriend Olivia, played by Judy Greer, is nothing short of spectacular. Tomlin is jarring, fiery, feisty, and doesn't put up with anyone's bullshit. Her views can be pretty out there and she's not afraid to tell it like it is in any and all circumstances. Elle is a writer and poet, but is down on her luck and stuck in a rut at the moment, financially and when it comes to her writing. Her long-term partner Violet has recently passed away from an undisclosed terminal illness. Elle has just cut up all her credit cards after paying off her debt, which included tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills from Violet's illness, so it's shocking when her granddaughter, a innocent enough teenager, shows up on her doorstep begging for money for such a procedure. Neither Elle nor Sage have a good relationship with Judy, Elle's daughter and Sage's mother, played by the wonderful Marica Gay Harden, who is a tightly wound workaholic and always expresses her displeasure with anything whenever she is given the chance. Elle and Sage go on a hunt about town to track down any money they can before Sage's appointment that night at a women's clinic. Along the way, many skeletons from Elle's closet are uncovered as the two of them meet, friends, former lovers, and people Sage never even knew existed from Elle's long, seasoned life.

Abortion is a touchy subject matter any way you look at it. Movies often deal with it in a very frank, earnest manner, and "Grandma" is no different. It puts the issue front and center, and though the film is a comedy, it never treats it as a joke. The movie as a whole discusses a lot of hot-button political issues pertinent to our society today, but it never feels preachy about them. These situations are simply presented as the events that exist within the story and are delivered in an extraordinary manner from everyone cast in the film. Lily Tomlin delivers her lines with an abrasive but endearing attitude. She never minces her words and always expresses herself no matter who it will offend. She gives a versatile performance here and one we think should be recognized in the coming months at the various awards ceremonies. Julia Garner has a sweet look about her, so when Sage finds herself in such a dramatic situation with nowhere but her grandma to turn, it is both scary and nerve-wracking, and she portrays Sage very well. Sam Elliot boasts a brief but gut-wrenchingly powerful performance as Karl, someone from Elle's past that she hasn't seen in 30 years. Their exchanges together range from tense to shocking as they definitely have some unresolved issues with one another. Many other performances are brief, but fit and excel in powering an emotional point home.

"Grandma" teeters the fine line between heartbreaking and hilarious. It is packed with incredible, heartfelt performances at every turn from three generations of women who are just as screwed up if not more so than the last. It is insightful, tender, and though short, it packs a hefty emotional punch in such a short run time. We definitely recommend this movie!

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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