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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Movie Review - Grandma

Grandma (2015)
Starring Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Judy Greer, Nat Wolff, Laverne Cox, Sam Elliott, and Marcia Gay Harden
Directed by Paul Weitz

I watched Grandma on the first night of the 2016 Republican National Convention.  I say this only to prove that this conservative reviewer can push aside his political leanings when watching a film and judge it based on its cinematic merits and Grandma is a surprisingly funny and touching film about the title character Elle (Lily Tomlin), a bit of a hippie lesbian old lady,  who spends the day traveling around to a variety of friends and enemies attempting to pool up money for her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) to be able to get an abortion.  While I'm sure I'd be shunned for appreciating this film by many members of my political affiliation, its story is well told and comes across surprisingly natural.

Plot-wise, there's not much else to talk about as the short under-eighty minute runtime of Grandma keeps things moving.  On its surface, writer-director Paul Weitz's film is really just a series of vignettes with Elle and Sage meeting a variety of kooky (and not-so-kooky) people.  Digging a little deeper, the film allows the character of the somewhat curmudgeonly Elle to blossom a little with each successive introduction of people in her life.  As her layers are revealed to the audience and to her granddaughter, we get a surprisingly multi-dimensional character for such a lighthearted film.  Kudos to Weitz and Lily Tomlin for creating this depth-filled woman whom I may not necessarily agree with all the time but at least has a purpose for having her story be told.

While the film does suffer from what I like to call Finding Nemo Syndrome in that it always feels like we're just moving from place to place for quick little meet-cutes with a variety of characters, Grandma still proves to be much more successful than I ever could have expected.  While its somewhat nonchalant way of dealing with abortion won't suit everyone's tastes, part of the reason the film works and feels decidedly not preachy (despite one horribly blunt scene outside an abortion clinic that is unnecessarily bashing of pro-life supporters) is that it's not really about abortion.  It's about an older woman coming to grips with things that have haunted her past and because that's the focus, the film comes off well.  Well acted by all members in the cast -- with a particularly moving and somewhat heartbreaking small cameo from Sam Elliott -- Grandma succeeds with me when I didn't even think it had a chance.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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