Grandma full movie review - The film "Grandma" isn't worth going over any hills, through any woods or even to the closest theater to see.
Do you want to know what's wrong with the world? What? Yeah, you're right, we don't have all day, and my reviews are long enough anyway.
Alright, I'll narrow it down to two things: lack of responsibility and lack of respect. When people live as if their actions have no consequences (or they shouldn't be subject to any consequences arising from their choices), they show a lack of responsibility. When people don't treat others as they would want to be treated, they show a lack of respect. If you stop to think about it, I believe you'll agree that the world would be a much better place if we all were even a little more responsible in our daily lives and a little more respectful in our interactions with other people. Oh, and it's also a big problem when people make a movie in which so few of the characters are likable. Okay, I guess that makes three things, but they're all relevant when discussing the film "Grandma" (R, 1:19).
The great Lily Tomlin takes on her first lead role in a feature film since 1988 (when she starred with Bette Midler in the underrated comedy farce "Big Business"). Tomlin plays the title character in this comedy-drama about an uninhibited, but tough lesbian poet named Elle Reid and her relationship with her 18-year-old granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner). Elle is still mourning the death of Violet, her life-partner of 38 years. That situation obviously has her emotionally edgy, but it's pretty obvious that she's always been a real pill. Sage stops by her grandma Elle's house in the morning, shortly after Elle cruelly breaks up with her much younger lover of two months (Judy Greer). Elle, in her own words, is "just being maudlin" as she goes through a box of pictures and memorabilia from her lifetime with "Vi". Sage says she needs money. She's pregnant and needs $630 to pay for an abortion she scheduled for late that day.
Elle has very little cash on hand and has cut up her credit cards, so she peels the cover off of Vi's old car and takes Sage on a sort of local road trip to visit people who give them various sums of money toward their goal. They visit Sage's rude, self-centered boyfriend, Cam (Nat Wolff), Elle and Vi's old friend, Deathy (Laverne Cox) in her tattoo parlor, Elle's scowling friend, Carla (Elizabeth Peña), Elle's grudge-harboring old flame, Karl (Sam Elliott), and Sage's unsympathetic businesswoman mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden). As the day progresses, instead of an open and frank discussion about Sage's choices and the direction of her life, or even some family bonding, we see Elle being very rude to a series of one-dimensional characters that Elle clearly regards as on the wrong side of the tracks, politically-speaking.
"Grandma" is full of outstanding acting, but lacking in likable characters, moral direction? and fun. Garner is well-cast and gives a nicely lived-in performance, while Elliott makes great use of his limited screen time to give an emotionally-layered performance. Tomlin is as great as ever. I just wish it were in service to a better movie. Although this film is mercifully short, it's basically a long commercial for abortion. Earlier in this review, I generously referred to this movie as a comedy-drama, but two out of three websites I checked label the film simply as a comedy. An abortion comedy?? Regardless of my personal feelings on the issue, I find the idea of a comedy about abortion to be offensive. Whether you're pro-choice, pro-life or don't care much either way, I'd like to think we could all agree that this complicated issue would have been better served by at least some discussion of Sage's options and the probable results of different courses of action. Surely nothing is to be gained by portraying the few religious and/or conservative characters in the story simply as close-minded, abusive snobs.
"But you're missing the point," someone reading this review is thinking. "This is a comedy about an unconventional grandmother's relationship with her granddaughter. Well, I would say in response, I can think of a hundred different ways to make a movie like that without exploiting a very serious, divisive and personal issue for comedic purposes. And even if I ignored the issue which drives this story, where's the comedy? Is it in Elle's terrible treatment of both friends and strangers? Is it in Sage's clueless lack of personal responsibility? Is it in the animosity between Elle and her daughter Judy? If that's your idea of humor, go ahead and enjoy this film. I'm not criticizing your taste in movies, but I'm not laughing either.
Oh, and the movie's boring too. The director must have known that. He placed title cards between each "chapter" of this story, as if to reassure us that the plot was progressing and driving towards some point.
If there's any positive message here, it's about not burning bridges in your dealings with others, but even that lesson is overshadowed by selfish and unkind characters who rarely show remorse for their actions or treat anyone with respect, being especially rude to anyone different from themselves. I don't know about you, but I had grandmas who were outspoken but loving and who taught me about personal responsibility and respect. I miss my grandmas. I wish I had missed the movie "Grandma" too. "D"