Taking place over the course of a single day, Grandma stars Lily Tomlin (in her first film role for 27 years) in the title role as Elle Reid whose granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) announces to her that she is pregnant and needs a certain amount of money for an abortion, not wanting to tell her domineering mother (Marcia Gay Harden). Not having the money and with a clinic appointment booked for later in the day, the two travel to various places, attempting to get the rest of the money from various people and to make the afternoon appointment.
At the centre of this film is Lily Tomlin and she is truly excellent; as the misanthropic, outspoken Elle, she delivers so many zingers and one-liners with confidence and charisma. She is not made into the obvious “outrageous grandma who does all kinds of crazy stuff like swearing and smoking pot and beating people with hockey sticks”, this film clearly isn’t Dirty Grandpa, but instead she is a woman full of moxie and confidence who has made some bad choices in her life and, as many of us can appreciate, she doesn’t have an anger problem but an a**hole problem. She is also fiercely protective and we are left in absolutely no doubt that she would do anything for her granddaughter; although they argue at certain points, the relationship between Elle and Sage is natural, genuine and sweet.
The film also has an impressive supporting cast and even though some, such as John Cho, Laverne Cox and Lauren Tom, only appear for a brief time, they are all genuinely laudable. Julia Garner is great as the vulnerable, sweet Sage who is clearly having trouble dealing with the situation that she’s in and she believably grows in confidence through the film. Judy Greer is also wonderful as Elle’s ex-girlfriend Olivia, providing some heartfelt moments between her and Elle.
Paul Weitz’s script is incredibly sharp, the dialogue is genuinely believable and the story itself is very straightforward, allowing the characterization to shine through. I also love the fact that it takes place over the course of a single day, much like Falling Down, and that the entire film is only 79 minutes long. This is a film with no frills, just a simple story that lets us listen to these characters and to be swept up in their lives.
A simple story, three-dimensional characters and a lovely, sharply written script. And all under 1 hr 20.
★ ★ ★ ★