Grandma – BFI LFF 2015 Review

With a steady catalogue of comedy films that includes American Pie and About A Boy, director writer Paul Weitz has looked to an experienced head to drive and star in his latest body of work. Elle Reid, Lily Tomlin, a highly regarded and broke poet has just split up with her girlfriend Olivia, Judy Greer, who is a good thirty years younger. Elle appears stone cold and unmoved by her decision to end it with Olivia and were quickly introducer to her abrasive wit that takes no prisoners. Not until alone does Elle reveal her broken heart but she has no time to appear wounded, as her rather delicate granddaughter Sage, Julia Garner, needs money for an abortion appointment in a couple of hours and doesn’t want to ask her mother for fear of her wrath. With very little money to her name, Elle embarks on a quest with Sage in trying to find the money, with having to face old faces from her past, as well as some truths she’s been avoiding for so long.

It’s a star turn from Lily Tomlin where she’s giving free reign in viscerally destroying anyone in her path. Thus so, almost ninety per cent of the film’s comedy derives from her. Whilst the journey asks Elle to confront her cold streak that has pushed her away from her daughter and ex-girlfriend, it has little to say or offer in meaning of anything significant. Sage is directly contrasted to her grandmother, with Elle being independent, intellectual and bolshie, Sage is a delicate uniformed and feckless entity that if she was not presented as so precious, the audience would probably come to despise her. It feels a bit too much of a clear dig at the ‘dependable’ youth of today contrasted with the counter culture warriors of yester years. Visually it feels a bit too hacked together and seemingly pining to be ‘Indiewood’ but lacks the imagination or inspiration to lift this from being just a decent talkie. For it’s flaws, Grandma is entertaining enough with some scene stealing cameos from Sam Elliot and Marcia Gay Harden.

***

Chris Aitken

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