“Grandma,” is a day in the life of a grandmother Elle (Lily Tomlin) and her granddaughter Sage (Julie Garner) as they journey around Los Angeles desperately in need of some cash. During this trip we learn about the life and loves of Elle. Wielding a sense of self-righteousness and a bad temper, Elle is not always easy to like. But as the day progresses, we see her vulnerable side and how her exterior defenses are guarding a woman that has deep sorrows. During this trek she breaks off a new relationship, meets with an old lover and comes to terms with the daughter that is in many ways is just like Elle.
“Grandma,” is a film written especially for Lily Tomlin by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”). He got to know Tomlin while directed the film “Admission,” which starred Tomlin in a supporting role. The film appears to be a comedy when seeing its trailer, but it is really is a deftly written drama that from time to time features Tomlin’s sarcastic and sardonic wit.
“Grandma,” finally allows Tomlin the freedom to show off her acting chops like no other film in the past. It’s easy to see why so much Oscar buzz has come along with this film after its smashing debut at the Sundance International Film Festival last January.
The film also boasts a bevy of great supporting performances. Julie Garner, playing her granddaughter, has more screen time with Tomlin in the film and going toe to toe with Tomlin shows what a gifted actor Garner is. She has a great career ahead of her.
Judy Greer does a fine job as Tomlin’s younger lover, but she doesn’t have enough screen time to really flex all of her abilities. And let me go on the record right now that Greer is ready to move from supporting roles to lead roles. She would be dynamite in leading role in a dramatic film – she’s just fantastic.
Marcia Gay Harden and Laverne Cox also hold important supporting roles, but the most interesting of all of the supporting performances is that of Sam Elliott. Elliott has been in a plethora of films this year, but this is his finest performance of them all. We really get a glimpse at some acting nuances that Elliott hasn’t had the opportunity to use – and this film makes him shine.
Overall, “Grandma,” is an excellent film with a beautifully written screenplay by Weitz, who also directed the film with a light hand – giving the actors room to do their thing. Come award season watch for Tomlin to clean-up all the way to Oscar time. Weitz’ delicately written screenplay also deserves attention, but may be overshadowed by larger films.
“Grandma,” is rated R for language and some drug use and has a run-time of 79 minutes.