Monday 14 December 2015

Film: 'Grandma'

I would dearly have loved to have given this an exceptional rating so that it might have been a contender for one of the very best films of the year. Sadly, I can't quite do that, though I'd still give it a strong recommendation.

The principal attraction is the presence of Lily Tomlin in every scene, and she's and in great form, alternately combative, reflective, sassy and sympathetic. (Why has she made so few feature films? I leave the question dangling). 
Another major positive is the superior screenplay by Paul Weitz, here writer as well as director - astute, perceptive and never sounding forced.
Then there's the strong supporting cast including Marcia Gay Harden (as the Tomlin character's dominating and argumentative daughter) -  and Sam Elliott who, as the only male of significance, and in only one (but long) scene, manages to leave an indelible impression, something he quite regularly achieves on film.
And last, but not least important, it all comes in at a commendably short one hour and a quarter (plus closing credits).

Elle (Tomlin), just having separated from her most recent, short-lived female relationship, is grandmother to Sage (Julia Garner, my sole reservation in the cast, she being the only one with the 'modern' tendency to mumble - though I have heard even worse - whereas I could hear every word of the remainder of the cast). Unmarried Sage is pregnant and, like her, the father (their affair is now over too) also doesn't want the baby. So impecunious Sage, having booked an appointment for an abortion later that very day, now comes to her grandmother to ask her for the money - though the latter is also broke, so the two of them have to quickly do a mini-round of those who might be able to help.

What is truly remarkable about this film is its non-judgmental stance on the issue of abortion, an attitude which would be bound to raise the hackles of so-called 'Pro-Lifers'. The subject is in no sense treated casually, rather it's seen throughout as a matter of the woman's choice. However, while on their rounds, the feathers of one or two are ruffled - and, as if to show just a token sense of balance, a sudden, very short event happens in the film's final scenes which would give such 'Pro-Lifers' at least something to cheer at. 
Another remarkable quality of the film is its matter-of-fact attitude towards same-sex relationships. It's just taken as a 'given', and not treated as anything out-of-the-ordinary or an added-on piece of exotica. That was refreshing, and not before time.

I'd expected this film to have been more of a comedy than it actually was - though there are some good and rather wicked one-liners, especially in the first half. However, I did think it became disappointingly flaccid about a quarter of an hour before the end as it wandered into sentimentality. Pity about that. It needed a bit of an unexpected jolt, or something as strong, to bring it to a more satisfactory conclusion, but that didn't come. It just fizzled away.

A good film but, regrettably, falling short of my high expectations, though not by a great deal. However, Lily Tomlin's presence alone ought to be sufficient to draw anyone.................................7.


  1. This is a film I want to see. The abortion/choice issue intrigues me further. An issue I have experience in. Put it this way, choices made with much thought, emotion, fear, anxiety and discussion. I was merely a friend in need on the sidelines who was there through it and to help pick up the pieces and sort out lives afterward. At least there was a safe choice that didn't spell infection, sterility or death as a result.

    1. With your experience you're going to approve of this, F/b. It's absolutely non-preachy when it could easily have been partisan. I think in that respect this film could well be a 'first'.
      Btw: I've inserted above another reason why I think this film is remarkable, leading me to think now on the morning after, I ought to have raised its rating to at least 7.5. But, as nearly always, I write my opinions immediately I get home after viewing them so they are very much spontaneous reactions - and often my views mellow with time, either way. Be that as it may, it would be dishonest and cheating myself and my readers if I were to now change my first deelings.

  2. This is one of those rare movies that I wanted to see but never got around to seeing it. I enjoy reading reviews on them for it gives me some sense having 'seen it'.

    1. Great shame that you missed it, Dr Spo, but it's bound to turn up on TV soonish , though unlikely, on account of its subject matter, on one of the Fox-supporting channels. But do see. It's rarity on at least a couple of levels make it of particular interest, in addition to the too-infrequent film appearances of Ms Tomlin.

  3. It sounds like we had similar experiences with this movie.

  4. It sounds like we had similar experiences with this movie.