Written and directed by Paul Weitz (Admission, Being Flynn), Grandma is a sensational coming of age story for both the young and older generations that will touch your heart. . The film stars Lily Tomlin (Grandma Elle Reid), Julia Garner (Sage), and Marcia Gay Harden (Judy).
One day like many other days, I found myself in the middle of NYC with a couple of hours to kill. I walked by the movie theater and the poster grabbed me to take a deeper look. I didn’t know what to expect as the lights cued down and the movie started.
It all starts as its 9am and we see Sage (Julia Garner) walking up a very steep hill on her way to her grandmother’s (Lily Tomlin) house. As the camera zooms in for a close up, you can see that this isn’t a visit for some milk and cookies. She notices her grandma in a state of nostalgia and sadness, and her knock on the door sets off a chain reaction. Sage and Elle both know that their must be a reason for this sudden visit. Sage uncomfortably asks her Grandma for $600 needed for an abortion that she scheduled at 5pm that very same day.
Related: In the clip below, Lily Tomlin talks about the natural talent of co-star Julia Garner:
Sage is desperate and has nowhere to turn to after her “semi boyfriend” (Nat Wolff) fails to come up with the money, all the while avoiding her in order to evade this time sensitive situation. Though Sage’s grandma is on a very limited “fixed” income- she will stick to her granddaughter’s side and find some way to collect the money.
The movie follows this linked duo as they race around town collecting every dollar they can get their hands on. They travel throughout Los Angeles collecting old debts and seeing old lovers. Elle is even willing to sell some remarkably rare literature for her granddaughter’s benefit.
Elle is a bold loud mouth , who is refreshingly unapologetic for her beliefs and way of life. She is a proud lesbian poet who has lived a colorful life and has no intention of slowing down no matter what age. Sage, still a teenager, is shy and innocent and simply wants to do right in the world. Theses two are the yin-yang in this move and the balance of old and young are blurred at times. At a point in this movie you see their true connection, and we start to forget about what the money is actually for.
All I noticed was that the courage that Sage has in order to do what is right for her. As, Elle puts her judgment aside, her unconditional love and selfless dedication to Sage shines throughout the story.
There are many obstacles in this movie and oddly it isn’t all about the cash. We learn that Sage was raised by a seemingly cold and distant mom named Judy, played by Marcia Gay Harden. Judy still harbors resentment over Elle (both women are basically cut from the same temperamental cloth, leading to their constant unease with each other). Will Sage find the money for her abortion and will Elle ever repair her fractured relationship with Judy?
Grandma is a beautifully complex film. layered with such real life situations and outcomes. Quite the “indie” film, it really did pack powerful performances that knocked my socks off. Searching for money to have an abortion is the goal behind Grandma, but as Elle understands, true riches begins and ends with one’s family.
Grandma, which also stars Sam Elliott as Elle’s ex-lover, is now playing in select theaters.
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