Saturday, 6 June 2015


Lily Tomlin is in near-perfect form as the cantankerous titular character in Paul Weitz's dramedy, Grandma. A poet-cum-academic still mourning the loss of her partner of 38 years, we meet Elle Reid (Tomlin) in the process of breaking up with her younger lover of four months, Olivia (Judy Greer). And the day is only going to get more emotional from there.

Later that morning, Elle's teenage granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), shows up on her doorstep in need of help. $600 for an abortion to be precise. And grandma, the liberal feminist and pragmatist that she is, is prepared to help, but having cut up her credit cards as a statement against, well, something or other, the two have to go in search of the funds; Sage's mother (a terse Marcia Gay Harden) not being an option.

So follows a long day's journey into night as these two women from the same gene pool but very different generations see their relationship evolve over the course of the day, and it is revealed that the sins of the mother (or grandmother) or often visited upon the child.

And Elle's complicated past is revealed with each new encounter (Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Pena), most notably Karl (Sam Elliot), a man who has been holding a torch for, and bearing a grudge against her for 40 years. Elliot's is the only male voice in a film that is very much -- and thankfully so -- about women. Bechdel Test passed!

Of course the star of the film is Tomlin, who gets to play the grumpy old woman to great effect; throwing off witty asides and pearls of wisdom with equal measure. But there's an emotional depth beneath the curmudgeonly veneer which Tomlin seems more interested in mining than does Weitz's screenplay.

Still, talk of an Oscar nomination for Tomlin which followed the film's premiere at Sundance in January should be put down to Festival fervour and nothing more. Fine as the veteran actress is, this isn't a great performance, but a standout one in a small film. That said, a Golden Globe nod wouldn't be out of the question.

Grandma screens again at the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 6.30pm at Event Cinemas.

Sony Pictures Australia are distributing the film locally but no release date has yet been set.

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