GRANDMA – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Cast: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Peña, Nat Wolff, Sarah Burns, John Cho, Sam Elliott
MPAA Rating: R (for language and some drug use)
Selig Rating: Full Price
Runtime: 80 Min.
I love Lily Tomlin.  Her humor has a way of reaching people on so many levels but her humor is only a small part of her talent.  Like a few other greats, Lilly has drama in her repertoire as well.  Grandma allows her to exercise those dramatic chops.
Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is a poet who has published several books of her work to some renown.  She and her late partner, Violet, raised her daughter, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden).  Judy has gone on to be a mother.  She is also extremely driven.
She is so driven that when her teenaged daughter finds herself pregnant by her not-so-great boyfriend she turns to Grandma instead of Mom for assistance to raise the cash to pay for an abortion.
Elle is already having a bad morning.  Her insecurity has broken up her relation with her new girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer).  Now her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), needs $635 so she can afford the abortion she has setup for that afternoon.  Elle would gladly help her with the cash but her bank account is nearly depleted and she cut up her credit cards and made them into wind chimes.
After assuring herself that Sage is NOT interested in going to her mother, Elle and Sage begin a trek to find the cash.  The girls head out in Violet’s vintage Dodge with the gangster whitewall tires, first stop is the boyfriend’s house.  Cam (Nat Wolff) is a hockey playing jock that doesn’t have what it takes to live up to his obligations.  When pushed, he says he wasn’t able to raise the cash.  His attitude is adjusted when Grandma applies a “liberal” use of his hockey stick to parts of his body.
Next stop is a tattoo parlor where her friend, Deathy (Laverne Cox), owes her $400.  Sadly, Deathy doesn’t have the cash.  She offers Elle a free tattoo.  After completing the tattoo, Deathy gives the girls $65.00 towards the procedure. 
Each stop along the way is a new view of the world Elle has made for herself.  Her next stop is at Hallenbeck's General Store.  Unfortunately for Elle, her ex Olivia has picked up a shift and is there when they arrive.  Add in the fact that the shop’s owner, Carla (Elizabeth Peña), and Elle have a rocky friendship and we see the ladies leaving empty handed.  (Side note: I loved seeing Colleen Camp as the poor lady trying to get her quesadilla she ordered.  It’s been too long since I saw her in anything.)
Elle and Sage just can’t seem to raise the cash.  Elle goes to the one person other than her daughter who would be able to give them the cash needed.  They go to see Karl (Sam Elliott), the man who was once married to Elle.  The scene is tough to watch because of Karl’s intense pain when he discovers why they need the money.  Sam Elliott is an amazing actor.  He draws upon his talent and gives us a man who has a piece of his heart missing.  A piece ripped out when his wife, Elle, left him under circumstances that broke my heart, as well.
Leaving Karl’s, the pair has no choice but to go to see Judy.  Sage’s mother is a really something!  As they walk into her office, she is on the phone talking to a client while working at her treadmill desk.  Yes, a high desk where you can walk on the treadmill while you work on your computer.
Judy is gives her daughter a hard time but after an extended discussion, she agrees to provide the cash for the procedure.  Following a trip to an ATM to allow Judy to get the necessary cash, the pair race to the clinic.  Sadly, Elle pushes the elderly car too hard and it dies before they make it to Sage’s appointment.
A van with a very middle-American family on-board picks them up as they hitchhike.  Dropping them off in from of the clinic, we see a mother and her daughter protesting against abortions.  Elle goes down on one knee in an attempt to reason with the young girl.  Elle gets a black eye for her efforts.  Who knew a pair of plastic “brass” knuckles could work so well!
Once inside Sage goes to the back for the procedure and Elle has her eye looked at.  I am so glad the story doesn’t end here.  The story has a very satisfying conclusion that brings all three generations together and finds in Elle the ability to trust in love again.
This film is a nice little film.  I doubt it will win any awards though several of the performances are worthy.  The film is a celebration of family and the ability of a family to heal itself given even a small chance as long as there is love in the hearts of all involved.  
Sit down and watch this film but leave your prejudices at home.  It is a good story filled with humor and sadness, and a whole lot of “crotchety” folks that are wonderful characters in their own right.  This one will find a place in my collection when it arrives on DVD/Blu-ray.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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