Grandma Blu-ray Review
Lily Tomlin is a whirlwind in the new feature GRANDMA. She grabs the screen and doesn’t let go. Her career has gotten a boost lately with this movie and her starring role in the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie” with Jane Fonda. I wish though I could embrace this film more than I can. I did fully appreciate the taut running time of 79 minutes, but I just didn’t enjoy the experience of this feature.
Tomlin is Elle Reid, the title Grandma character for this piece. She was a somewhat renowned poet in her younger days. We first see her as she is breaking up with her younger girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer). Her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) comes strolling in afterwards with some big news. Sage is pregnant and wants to have an abortion. She though doesn’t have the money to get this done, so she is asking Elle for the money. Sage had set up the appointment for late in the day, so it is time sensitive.
Elle though doesn’t have the money. She gets money from speaking engagements and the like. At the time she is cash poor. She had also paid off all her debt and cut up her credit cards. This starts the road trip for Sage and Elle as they seek out the money needed to get the abortion.
This is where I have my problems with the film. The Elle character is so unpleasant throughout. Tomlin is great in the role. I give her that. But I really wanted to get away from her from practically the beginning. First we see her as she argues with her soon to be ex-girlfriend. Ok. That’s fine. That happens. Then she and Sage go to the coffee house to discuss their plans. Elle discusses abortion a bit too loudly for the manager and he asks her to leave. Elle freaks out. She yells at the manager and at the customers. She proceeds to pour coffee on the floor to signify her disaffection. The whole scene just felt fake to me and over the top. They wanted to set up a confrontation over a minor thing. It never felt believable to me.
We then see the duo go over to Sage’s boyfriend’s place to confront him about paying for the procedure. Once again I think the writing lets down the actors. The boyfriend is a stoner loser who really can’t be bothered about the whole thing. He yells at Elle and calls her some unflattering things after she puts him through the ringer. This is volleyball time. Director/Screenwriter Paul Weitz has thrown the figurative ball up in the air, so the Elle character can spike it down. Making the boyfriend so loathsome was just so incredibly easy to do. Weitz is making us root for Elle here. A more nuanced approach would have been more effective. If Weitz had made the boyfriend a good guy who doesn’t have the money, it takes away the rooting angle for Elle. We are being spoon fed in the scenario created by Weitz.
This happens again and again in the film. The twosome goes to a place to get money and Elle starts yelling at the person at the place over something. Marcia Gay Harden does come into the picture late in the proceedings as Sage’s mother and another intimidating presence.
GRANDMA is a strong showcase for Lily Tomlin in her late career revival. Unfortunately her character just makes it unbearable to sit through this.
Video: The picture looked fine in the Blu-ray. Everything matched up well.
Audio: The sound was quite good. The dialogue was clear and concise. Everyone could be heard.
A Family Portrait: Making Grandma (25:13): Weitz, the producer and actors talk about their experience making the film. Casting is discussed and how the script evolved. Tomlin talks about the role and about working with Garner. Garner does the same. The actors rave about working with Weitz
Q&A with Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott and Paul Weitz (20:58): This is moderated by Pete Hammond. Once again the casting and script development is discussed. Weitz had Tomlin in mind all along. Elliot had worked with Paul’s brother Chris on another film. The issue about abortion is touched upon. The car used in the film is talked about. Chemistry between Elliott and Tomlin is brought up. Weitz is asked about feminism and what it was like to create all these strong female characters.
Commentary with Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott, Julia Garner and Paul Weitz: This is a very light hearted commentary. All of them are at ease with each other with a lot of joking around going on. Weitz does fill in the blanks with various scenes. The actors share their thoughts on certain scenes as well. The car used in the film is actually owned by Tomlin. This was discussed in the other features also.