A modern comedy skilfully created for Lily Tomlin which also employs a supporting cast to good effect.



This year Sean Baker’s Tangerine became the epitome of what American independent cinema is now offering to reflect changing attitudes to sexual issues and to sexuality itself. Like Tangerine, Grandma is set in Los Angeles, but it is aimed at the mainstream market. Consequently it is less cutting-edge by far and if its cast does include a trans woman she only gets a supporting role. But happily we have reached an age in which Tomlin, now married to her long-term partner the playwright Jane Wagner, can appear as a lesbian grandmother who is central to a comedy in which the audience are expected to treat her as the film’s heroine.

This leading figure, Elle, is someone who, following the death of her partner of thirty-eight years, Violet, has found a new and younger lover, Olivia (Judy Greer), although the relationship looks set to end. Thus lesbianism is not just incidental, even if the main plot concerns Elle’s attempts to help her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), who comes to her hoping for money for an abortion. Much of the film concerns Elle’s endeavours to find cash ahead of Sage’s appointment at a clinic set for the same day. Both of them are wary of Sage’s formidable mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), who is at odds with Elle and feared by Sage and therefore they do not want to approach her unless every other possibility has failed.

Sensibly opting for a running length of just under 80 minutes, Grandma consists of six titled sections but begins with a written statement: ‘Time passes. That’s for sure’. That’s a reflection of the fact that the film’s viewpoint is a broad one about all of us having our failings and that fact making it wrong to judge others harshly. Sam Elliott has good scenes as the man that Elle had married before accepting her sexuality and whose behaviour is decidedly erratic. This may be a comedy at heart but, as in its advocating freedom of choice over abortion, it is not a film that is escapist (late on one wonders if it will opt for a too easy happy ending but it pulls back in time). What is does have is real warmth despite following the modern trend to use strong language. That warmth emanates from Tomlin herself. This is, perhaps, a small film but it is a decidedly engaging one.




Cast: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Sam Elliott, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Nat Wolff, Elizabeth Peña, Judy Geeson.

Dir and Screenplay Paul Weitz, Pro Andrew Miano, Weitz, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis and Terry Dougas, Ph Tobias Datum, Pro Des Cindy Chao and Michele Yu, Ed Jonathan Corn, Music Joel P. West, Costumes Molly Grundman-Gerbosi.

An 1821 Media, Depth of Field production-Sony Pictures Releasing UK.
79 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 11 December 2015. Cert. 15.