These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.
Upon first glance at this movie, there was a lot of reasons to like it. Being an avid fan of Marcia Gay Harden and recently enjoying Lily Tomlin’s work, adding initial raving reviews, I’ve had my eye on this since I found out about it. In the end, I had high expectations. That’s really all there is to it, so let’s dive right in.
Starring: Lily Tomlin (TV show GRACE AND FRANKIE [2015 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE ROAD HOME ), Julia Garner (10 episodes of THE AMERICANS [2013 – ongoing], and the upcoming YOU CAN’T WIN ), and Marcia Gay Harden (FIFTY SHADES FREED  and DARKER )
Support: Judy Greer (15:17 TO PARIS , WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES , ANT-MAN , and upcoming films ANT-MAN AND THE WASP  and HALLOWEEN ), Sam Elliott (THE HERO , ROCK DOG , THE GOOD DINOSAUR , and upcoming films A STAR IS BORN  and THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS ), John Cho (COLUMBUS , STAR TREK BEYOND , and upcoming films SEARCHING  and THE GRUDGE ), Nat Wolff (HOME AGAIN , LEAP! , PAPER TOWNS , and upcoming films MORTAL  and STELLA’S LAST WEEKEND ), and Laverne Cox (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK [2013 – ongoing])
Director/Writer: Paul Weitz (AMERICAN DREAMZ  and ABOUT A BOY )
Composer: Joel P. West (THE GLASS CASTLE )
Cinematographer: Tobias Datum (THE LOVERS , and the upcoming BEL CANTO )
Editor: Jon Corn (TV show THE GOLDBERGS [2013 – ongoing])
This is my honest opinion of: GRANDMA
The story opens on Elle (Lily Tomlin) who is breaking up with her girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer). They’d been dating for a few months, but Elle is still thinking about her long time lover who passed away before she and Olivia met. They love each other, but it’s not working out despite the mutual pain. Elle begins to move on by herself, paying off debts that drained her dry and cutting up her credit cards so she doesn’t end up in a similar situation. Well things come to a sharp turn when her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) pays her a visit. Sage just found out that she’s pregnant and wants an abortion. However, she needs a lot of money to get the procedure done and that’s money she doesn’t have. Hoping that her grandmother can help her out without telling Sage’s over-bearing mother Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), Elle reveals that she doesn’t have the money either. But she hatches a plan to go around town cashing in favors owed to her, hoping to raise the money quickly before the day is through.
I really wanted to like this movie. I really did. But my god… so much no.
Well, let me start with what I liked. Tomlin is an absolute delight. I hear she’s an amazingly kind person in real life, so to see her be so convincing as this no-nonsense bitchy lesbian, she is a performance powerhouse and it’s glorious. Also, as per usual, Harden only delivers her best bitch face performance and she shines as a far more intimidating figure in the story than even the no-nonsense character Elle, whom even mentions how she’s been afraid of her own daughter since she was a child. Overall, the performances were great for what they were. Maybe Sage was a bit bland for my taste as far as interesting characters are concerned, but I don’t think that’s any fault of Garner.
But let’s face it, if that were the worst this movie had, it’d be a damn good movie. Instead, let’s focus on the possibly biggest issue I had. UNFOCUSED!!! What do I mean? You have two stories being told here. The first is an elderly woman who is a lesbian. Alright, not a bad idea, could be a character study on homosexuality for senior citizens, could be interesting. The second is a pregnant teenager who is adamant on getting an abortion. Certainly a hot-button topic in America, but if written well, could be a pretty interesting focus on that side as opposed to a movie like JUNO that wanted to give birth to the baby as opposed to aborting it. Neither story is uninteresting, but the cardinal sin that causes me to claw at my own face is that neither subject is dug into with any depth. Elle’s a lesbian, but the fact that she is one plays such a minor roll in the story until the plot demands it. Her being a lesbian only comes up when she’s sharing screen time with her girlfriend Olivia and her ex-boyfriend of, what, 30 FUCKING YEARS AGO (more on this later)!!! Beyond that, this was a detail that didn’t need to be added. It’s just clearly filler to make an already kind of short film to flesh out, instead dive deep. Sure, the individual scenes work out well, but as soon as they end, they’re never brought up again. It’s like the movie is saying, “Well, done with that scene, moving on to the next one” and that’s such a missed opportunity.
Sage’s pregnancy is almost treated worse. You don’t see how her pregnancy really affects her beyond “I want money to abort it.” Again, abortion is a loaded gun waiting to go off. Everyone’s got an opinion on it. This could have been a challenging character to provide more insight to those unaware of what abortions involve, what they’re about, why a woman should or should not do it, and it makes absolutely no arguments whatsoever. She doesn’t even talk about why she wants to abort rather than just give birth. Even a half-baked answer like, “I just don’t want to go through the pain of child labor” would be better than nothing at all. Is this what they call a “plot device?” I want to say so because all Sage’s pregnancy does is get the two characters from one place to another, which MAYBE goes into Elle being a lesbian, but Jesus, it’s abortion!! You can’t throw a detail in like that and not talk about it!! To the movie’s credit though, the movie… KIND OF ends Sage’s story on an ambiguous note that she may not actually go through with the abortion, but there’s certainly room for debate on that matter.
There’s certainly more to complain about, like why did Elle visit her ex-boyfriend of 30 some-odd years ago for money? Because he said to her that she could come to him for anything. Yet, they haven’t seen or spoken to each other since, and they STILL have a thing for each other? It’s utter bullshit, despite Sam Elliot giving the performance everything he’s got. The performance and chemistry is great, but it served no purpose other than igniting curiosity over what this movie could have been, rather than what it is.
This just felt like a jumbled mess. Some good ideas, awful execution. Were it not for the star power and my bias opinion on those stars, I would downright hate this movie instead of simply disliking it.
Marcia Gay Harden, thank you for saving this movie from a 2.
My honest rating for GRANDMA: a weak 3/5