Grandma (2015)

PAUL WEITZ

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

USA, 2015, .  Screenplay by Paul Weitz.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , Paul Weitz.  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Golden Globe Awards 2015.  Gotham Awards 2015National Board of Review Awards 2015.   

Lily Tomlin brings a great deal of spirit to what is otherwise a slim experience. She plays a renowned poet whose rebound relationship with a much younger woman has just ended on the day that she is further distraught by the sudden appearance of teenage granddaughter , whose relationship with her own mother is as fractured as her mother’s is with Tomlin. Garner tells her grandmother that she needs an abortion but doesn’t have the money for the procedure; Tomlin doesn’t have cash to give her so they hit the road, finding old friends and exes that, in the process of having to ask for money for so controversial a situation over and over again, does nothing good for Tomlin’s temper and, simultaneously, forces her to face the relationships in her life that have become so much more tenuous since the death of her longtime partner. What should be a smart and touching film along the lines of Tumbleweeds is undone by a complete lack of faith in the audience’s sympathy; Garner’s character has little substance or detail, instead relegated to a symbol constantly being viewed from the outside and never given a point of view, obscuring the story’s positive feminist themes and making it feel like you’re being lectured to. Tomlin is spirited and vulnerable at turns and has one of her richest feature film characters since her Robert Altman days, but she doesn’t have nearly the amount of hard edges that the film has, the whole time fighting very hard for the rights of a young woman it never wants to get to know. Marcia Gay Harden is superb in a small appearance as Tomlin’s Alex P. Keaton-syndromed daughter, and provides the charge missing from the relationship between the film’s most focused-on stars.

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