Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: GRANDMA: Lily Tomlin’s Stunning Performance [LAFilmFest 2015]


Grandma (2015) Film Review from the 21st Annual Los Angeles Film Festival, a movie directed by Paul Weitz, starring Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, and Sam Elliott.

LAFF opened its doors to women in the spotlight at the opening night premiere of Grandma. The film definitely made a statement with its intelligently written script as it tells the story in a rhythmic and poetic fashion of three generations of women and their struggles in the big city of Los Angeles. Elle (Lily Tomlin) captivates the audience with her stunning performance as the bitter, older, and should be wiser, once known poet. Sage (Julia Garner), the granddaughter, plays her role well as the young pregnant teen seeking money and advice from her childlike grandma, Elle. Out of fear of approaching the mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), the wisest out of the three, the two set out to find Sage $630 for an abortion that Elle could not afford to give her.

“Grandma, am I a slut?” Just one of the many questions that Sage asks her grandmother as they both contemplate on finding their place in life. As they journey their way through Los Angeles and Elle’s past, we find that Sage can’t really trust her Grandma to be the adult she expects her to be but she does find a friend in her; a relationship she does not have with her mother. Elle is grieving the death of her long time partner Violet, second mother to Judy, and feels like she lost a part of her. This makes it impossible for her be in a healthy relationship with her girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer) and breaks it off before she could get any closer. Elle’s questionable parenting skills come to play when they stop by her ex girlfriend’s, the tattoo artist (Laverne Cox), and has her tattoo an O on her arm in front of Sage. We get the sense that Sage, although pregnant, it still somewhat reserved when she rejects the offer to get her own tattoo.   

Tomlin’s erratic character does a great job depicting herself as a misanthropic but a cool badass grandma. The use of vocabulary in the film is symbolic of Tomlin’s maturity level depicting her as a childlike older woman but clearly at a different level than Sage. We first see Elle go “apes” over her frustration with the relationship at the coffee shop where Olivia works. The two go at it in the coffee shop and in the street as they yell at each other using terminology well above a teenager’s vocabulary level. When Sage reflects on this, she realizes that even grown woman fight but in a more respectable fashion than her and her friends. Tomlin is not a typical protagonist but we see that she levels with Sage and can connect with her in many ways, which makes it easier for people of all ages to connect with the movie.

As the two carry on their journey through Elle’s past, we see an unbearable kiss between her and her ex husband, Karl (Sam Elliot). The story unfolds as the two dispute over his feelings of resentment towards Elle for walking away from the relationship. The dialogue between the two spoke to the choices that people make in their life and the power of forgiveness. Elliot plays a minor role in the movie but leaves a big impact. Weitz moves from one heartbreaking scene to another as the two finally come to terms with approaching Mom for the money. We finally see Judy as a over worked successful woman battling her job and the responsibility of her teenage daughter. Judy exposes her frustration through sarcastic and gut wrenching phrases to her daughter that makes us realize why Sage refused to approach her mother in the first place. Marcia nails the tough, single working mom role with her outbursts of sarcasm and witty one-liners.

Paul Weitz’s film clearly pushes limits as he sets the tone of independence and what it takes to fight for the choices that a woman must make but at the same time only graces the idea of pro-life. There are some questionable scenes where the use of technology is forgotten. It is a movie from the grandma’s point of view but we do live in a smartphone generation. Though the overall gist of the movie is outlined well as it leaves you thinking about choices and mistakes that you have made and that starting over is not the worst thing in the world. We all have to start over at some point, whether you are a teenager, a middle aged woman, or a grandma.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author

Shivangi Patel

A native Californian and Finance grad that is a former blogger for various fashion sites and dabbles in creative writing. Enjoys watching TV and writing about it. In addition to writing she spends her days as a Client Services Manager for a financial services firm, volunteering with non-profit organizations, and embracing her inner foodie by trying new restaurants around Los Angeles.

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