Monthly Archives: August 2015

Film Review: Grandma

Film Review: Grandma

Grandma, the new film by Paul Weitz, is a wise and often very funny look at a fractured family and how it begins to heal. The reason to see this film, though, is Lily Tomlin’s performance. Ms. Tomlin creates an irascible character who remains faithful to the operating principles of life as she defines them. Unfortunately, the rest of the world seems to have different ideas.

Elle Reid (Ms. Tomlin) has a bitter discussion with her soon-to-be ex, Olivia (Judy Greer) in the opening scenes. Olivia doesn’t understand why the relationship is ending, and neither do we. It’s especially confusing when there’s a shot of Tomlin in the shower, weeping profusely. We do learn Elle’s reasons, just not during set-up.Grandma & Granddaughter

That same morning, Elle’s granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) appears on her doorstep. She’s pregnant and needs money for an abortion, scheduled for that evening.

Sage doesn’t feel comfortable discussing her situation with her mother Judy (Marcia Gay Harden). Elle can’t offer much direct help, as she’s cut up her credit cards and used them to decorate a wind chime. Still, she takes up Sage’s cause. The two women set off on an odyssey to find the needed money during the remainder of the morning and afternoon. Their search takes them to Cam (Nat Wolff) the lowlife father of Sage’s child, an old flame of Elle’s (Sam Elliott), and Olivia.Grandma Treadmill Desk

When it comes to money, though, their luck is mostly bad. Sage and Elle are forced to tell Judy about the situation and ask for her help. Initially, Judy is annoyed-they burst into her office and find Judy at her treadmill desk. Later, she has a change of heart and makes a key concession. The final scene between Tomlin and Harden suggests that a family reconciliation could be on the horizon.Grandma 3 Generations

If I have a quibble with this film, it’s the plotting. The set-up is very slow to develop, and various elements of the story line are stacked like a house of cards. All the drama with Sage just happens to occur right after Elle ends her relationship with Olivia. It just so happens that Elle has cut up her credit cards right before Sage shows up needing money. The appointment just happens to be that night-apparently, this is the only women’s clinic in California, and they don’t reschedule appointments. I could go on and on, but won’t. Here’s why.

Grandma is one of the first films I’ve seen where multiple generations of women’s reproductive choices are placed side by side without any judgments being rendered. Elle, a gay woman, chose to raise Judy with long-time partner Violet. (Violet died after a long illness, hence Elle’s wariness to commit to Olivia.) Judy used a sperm donor to conceive Sage, who is in the process of terminating a pregnancy. Sage is young, though, so anything is possible for the future.Grandma Lily & Sam

Although I don’t care for the plotting, I honestly enjoyed the characterization and dialogue in the script. The interplay between Elle and Sage is wonderful. When Elle mentions The Feminine Mystique, Sage thinks it’s a character from X-Men. At another point, Sage mentions that Judy thinks Elle is a philanthropist. Challenged by Elle, Sage realizes that Judy actually said “misanthrope”.

I was fortunate enough to see an advance screening of this film along with a Q & A given by writer/ director Paul Weitz. He mentioned writing this script specifically for Lily Tomlin and also allowing her to have final say on the casting for Julia Garner as Sage. Weitz said the scene where a little girl slugs Tomlin had its basis in real life; this happened to Tomlin’s partner, Jane Wagner, in Las Vegas.

Bottom line: see Grandma for Lily Tomlin’s performance. She’s come a long way, baby.

Theme: Single Pregnancy: Then & Now

Related Post: Film Appreciation: Kotch  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-kotch/

Single Pregnancy: Then & Now: List For Week Ending 8/30/15  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/single-pregnancy-then-now-list-for-week-ending-83015/

 

Film Appreciation: Kotch

Film Appreciation: Kotch

Kotch is a film that requires patience, though it’s worth the effort if you’re a fan of character studies. The first ten minutes or so are unabashedly heartwarming. You’re accosted by an over-the-top version of the theme song “Life Is What You Make It”, accompanied by pictures of Walter Matthau (as Kotch) playing with aContinue Reading

Film Review: Homebound

Film Review: Homebound

The down-to-earth film Homebound marks the feature debut of Fanny Véliz, its writer/director/star. It’s the story of Richard Lynn Escamilla (Jeremiah Ocanas), an ambitious young man who escapes drab El Campo, Texas for a managerial job in San Diego. On the day he receives a promotion, Richard Lynn discovers his father Gilberto (Enrique Castillo) isContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Five Easy Pieces

Film Appreciation: Five Easy Pieces

Most people remember Bob Rafelson’s film Five Easy Pieces because of this scene with Jack Nicholson in a diner: It’s a great scene-funny and indicative of Nicholson’s character (in this film and several of his other 1970s roles). However, it doesn’t relate to the central conflicts of the story. In keeping with the time whenContinue Reading

Film Review: The Falling

Film Review: The Falling

Carol Morley’s The Falling deals with unusual, possibly supernatural, events at a girl’s school in 1969. It’s a deliberately paced film, best when the menace to the girls is left undefined. The film’s third-act reversal comes close to negating all the ambiguous creepiness that has come before. During the earlier parts, Morley does a greatContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Carrie

Film Appreciation: Carrie

  Brian de Palma’s film Carrie is considered old hat today, but it scared the daylights out of people in 1976. The main reasons to watch this film now are the performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. I’m choosing to write about this film as a companion to The Falling because of the wayContinue Reading

Teenager See, Teenager Do: List For Aug. 16, 2015

Teenager See, Teenager Do: List For Aug. 16, 2015

The films on this week’s list feature teenagers doing things as a group-like fainting (The Falling), bullying a classmate (Carrie), and getting pregnant (17 Girls). Let’s hope the characters get this out of their systems while they’re young or, in the case of The Virgin Suicides, find someone who will talk them out of it.Continue Reading

Film Review: Dark Places

Film Review: Dark Places

  Fans of Gone Girl, I may have a film for you. Dark Places, which opens this week, is based on a novel by Gillian Flynn. You’ll have to suspend quite a lot of disbelief to deal with the plot, though, especially in the third act. Flynn actually wrote the novel Dark Places first. ItContinue Reading