Posted on: 14 December 2015 by Laurence Green

Grandma provides a funny, thought-provoking and poignant insight into the choices we make and how we come to feel about them through the prism of time, writes Laurence Green.

Lily Tomlin & Julia Garner in Grandma

A consistently surprising road movie laced with a biting sense of humour is how you could describe Paul Weitz's excellent Grandma (nationwide from December 10 2015) which marks a welcome return to the screen of that fine actress Lily Tomlin.

The story centres on Elle Reid, a tart-tongued, foul-mouthed septuagenarian poet who charges through life like a bull in a China shop. Still reeling from the death of her long-term partner Violet and in the process of breaking up with her much younger new girlfriend Olivia, Elle's defences are at an all-time high. When her 18-year-old granddaughter Sage turns up out of the blue announcing that she is pregnant and needs Elle's help to terminate it, the pair embark on a road trip across LA which gives them just enough time to confront both their demons and each other.

This is an initially breezy comedy about mothers, daughters and abortions that really sneaks up on you and packs a strong emotional punch. The film really catches fire in a long mid-section sequence that finds Elle and Sage stopping at the home of Karl, a mystery man in Elle's past, in the hope of getting the $600 needed for the abortion. The scene develops into a knowing, tender and finally devastating reunion between two old friends whose lives intertwined once upon a time and who have been irrevocably scarred by the decisions they made back then. Still slender and tanned, Karl talks about his ex-wives, children and grandchildren, while Elle rolls a joint and joins him down memory lane.

Another sequence that stands out is when the two women visit Sage's ex boyfriend to make him pay up and when he flatly refuses, Elle ends up giving him his just desserts.

This warm immensely enjoyable character-driven comedy, though belongs to Lily Tomlin who is nothing short of divine as the misanthropic grandmother of the title and whose curt words and emotional armour can't quite mask her broken heart. Indeed, Tomlin brings a deep reserve of anger and sorrow to the role of Elle that is truly impressive. Strong support is given by Julia Greer as the frizzy-haired Sage, Sam Elliott as Karl and Marcia Gay Harden as Sage's mother.

Overall, one could sum up this funny poignant film as providing a thought-provoking insight into the choices we make for good and ill, and how we come to feel about them through the prism of time.



In cinemas nationwide from 14 December 2015.

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