Lily Tomlin, GrandmaWait for cable. This Paul Weitz film (trailer) has had some mixed, but mostly positive reviews, and we gave it a chance based on the cast line-up: Lily Tomlin, Marcia Gay Harden, Sam Elliott.

As it turns out, the best, most persuasive performance comes from pale-as-paper Julia Garner, who plays Tomlin’s 18-year-old granddaughter, Sage. Her role mostly requires looking on in dismay as the “grown-ups” whom she hopes will help her rant viciously at each other and dredge up decades-old animosities. By staying out of it, she is revealed as Sage the wise, not Sage the turkey-and-dressing ingredient.

People vary sharply in what they find funny. Alas, I don’t find a firehose delivery of insults and putdowns more than boring. Tomlin’s character, poet Elle Reid, is unnaturally prickly and, faced with the pregnancy of her high school student granddaughter, she’s not even sympathetic—or discreet. “She’s already pregnant,” she announces to a young man who glances Sage’s way.

The movie’s plot revolves around Elle and Sage’s attemps to scare up $600 for an abortion, scheduled for 5:30 pm the day the movie takes place. This is not a gleeful situation, either. (The old Dodge was pretty cool, though.)

I’m a fan of Tomlin’s acting, but laudatory reviews to the contrary, she doesn’t seem really engaged with this highly predictable material. The ill-conceived (you should pardon the expression) and flimsy device of the appointment deadline puts manic urgency into the pair’s approaches to a succession of unlikely loan prospects. Tomlin’s interaction with the loser boyfriend is unbelievable in every particular, and nothing written for Tomlin’s character suggests she has a poetic bone in her body or the necessary mental discipline and insight for that craft.

Rotten Tomatoes critics rating: 93%; audiences: 72%.

3 thoughts on “Grandma

  1. Interested in your review of Grandma. One of my discerning friends who belongs to my movie discussion group reacted same way you did. Will see the movie tomorrow and decide for myself. Thanks as always for your succinct writing.

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