Grandma : A Film Review

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Directed, written by Paul Weitz. Produced by Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas.
Cast. Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Nat Wolff, John Cho, Sam Elliott. Running time: 78 MIN. Cert. 15.
USA. Production An 1821 Media Prod. presentation of a Depth of Field prod.

Comedy Los Angeles Style
It’s been a while since Lily Tomlin, one of Americas finest comedic actresses has graced the screen in a title role and this brings her front and rudely central into a great part for her later years. She has said it is likely her last movie but it is maybe froth on the hype of this film.
It is a masterly refreshing return and this movie has depth and well written dilemma and drama and storyline developed through its funny, acerbic and challenging story. It is up in the hills and all over as journey around chasing bucks in the Hollywood Hills. As you do.
Septuagenarian?
Grandma is a woman whose life has many chapters of which rebelliousness is not lost or a constant search for love wherever it might exist.
It opens with her being a hard nosed (acting out as seniors do having a retinue of life experiences to call on) with her partner as they reach a low point or shake up or make up point in the relationship. It’s a junior relationship, in terms of days as well as years and we get a piece of storyline of the recently or not so long ago for Grandma Elle Reid,
A fit seventy five year old Lily Tomlin is young for the part of the septuagenarian (80’s isn’t it?!) and she and the part pack a punch which has energy and quick wittedness, Lily having the timing and kitschy Jewish snappiness of a Jackie Mason. Some one liners are rich, rustic, rubicund, rude, and slam dunk moment which have even a small review audience roaring with laughter as much as cynical worn dudes can. They slacken of the chains of movie hubris momentarily.
Paul Weitz of American Pie and About a boy fame has made a low budget stop with this philosophical peppy unrestrained pic. Lily Tomlin reprises if you like the genre of telephone operator (without scruples) Ernastine or Edith Ann of rocking chair wisdom.
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Grandchild
Alongside her is the other central character. For a Grandma has to have a grandchild and this is the wonderful petite Sage (cue the odd joke) played by the curly blonde Julia Garner with the straight line role of teenage leaning about life (sex education is a topic with many strands and the theories on her schooling feature on several characters roster) while Grandma is on a low having departed from Olivia played by Judy Greer whose existence comes as a bit of a surprise to Sage given she is closer to her age than Grandma. Question arises ‘are all men etc….’ in the mist above her head and implied to the reviewer. Feminism is a specialist subject of the retiree Academic Poet Writer Grandma Ellie Reid (Lily) has been in the real world and she carries her now pauperism life – medical bills for her lost love, paying of all her debts as a clean break – leaves her in a dilemma how to help her granddaughter Sage who comes knocking at her door.
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Motor Melon Man
Men can’t carry a melon?
The two get along great and have early connection over the ‘growing oversized water melon’ Sage is carrying and Ellie has a lot of sympathy with this ‘child’ whose own choices (her brilliantly portrayed Mum, her mother, Judy played by the equally superb comedic Marcia Gay Harden. Her mother plays a great mini-me – Lily with an economics degree and flat down slam dunk reality check – one of her best lines comes and I won’t spoil it for you on what a mistake is – so decked in power red and on her game and caffeine enhanced world as to nearly steal the show from the fellow conspirators on this road trip to reality.
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What’s the Story?
If I’ve left out the premise so far you’ve probably guessed it. It concerns the screw up literally both with the nerdy boyfriend, played by Nat Wolff and the rush to the solution which brings in, in little segmented stories characters, starting with the road mobilé Dodge Royal – a shiny black god for the road with the set designers crayon ‘broken/cracked passenger window touch to make it appear not so slick! and the late Elizabeth Pena giving it everything as a bookshop proprietress; nice little story joiner in here to say nothing of the fem on calories cruncher, as an accomplice in this terrific moving (literally) film.
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Gravitas kicks in.
This is a brilliant duet entering the story. Well paired and much more than the basic met up.
The cinema growls and our ears are met with a very unusual sound at one point. The deep growl of action man cowboy Sam Elliot enters with a deep bass voice as the character Karl. An ex of Ellie he is greeted on the step of his elevated retiree home overlooking wonderful LA. It may not be the Koneig house (go looking it up it will astonish you if you’ve never seen it – now a national monument!) but hangs over the kingdom of made up reality as good as one could hope for.

This is the centre of the film from which the curve takes on another slide and Los Angeles with the sunshine state splitting the freeways and luscious tree lined avenues on the heights gives a stark contrast to the bewilderment, predicament plays havoc with the mind, the emotions and wider bigger picture which is what director Paul Weitz whose story, writing this is intended to immerse us in.
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Complacency is not an object to enter nor logic, the meaning of which cannot be tapered with – it is after all – a form of syllogism in which the major premise is formed of two or more hypothetical propositions and the minor premise is a disjunctive proposition, as “If A, then B; if C then D. Either A or C. Therefore, either B or D.” – put that in as I didn’t appreciate how sound it was and is as a force of gravity the film is and shapes into.
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Conclusion. ####4
Short though this film is at 78 mins it neither slows or quickens through the reveal and has in it many high points of Humour and seriousness of aspect. It delivers a punch almightily and forcefully as indeed life does and director Paul Weitz has constructed this knowing full well I suppose the genius of the irascible tip tappy bombastic phenomenon Lily Tomlin would bring if he were to cast her. Much of her past movies are solidly placed as undercurrent as sound platforms and referencing for both the players skills and the writers vision. It is a pretty awesome film given its slender ‘seasonal headliner pocket of marketing’ and can be appreciated on so many levels.
It sends out without being preachy questions only you can answer. The film won’t provide answers but delivers another perspective giving emotional clout and much to consider afterwards and can be a basis in itself to discuss the subjects it presents and encounters.

Experience is everything in this context and Lily Tomlin needs an Oscar for her part as the Grandma or a big handshake hug for her dynamic of a film career. Mind you, much as I love the playing I still am even more appreciative of Marcia Gay Harden as a undercut, slightly manic controlled comedic slice of genius.

John Graham

9 December 2015

Belfast

See from Friday 11 December to and including 17 December 2015.

Keep an eye open for it around and about over Christmas as it is something of a go see movie with more to it than a walk up Christmas movie.

Check website for scheduled times and showings
and all the Festive comforts this great place offers!
http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com
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