Monday, September 07, 2015

"Grandma": an aging female poet offers much more than a bookish life

Grandma” (2015, Paul Weitz) is a comedy about people-skills and personal assertiveness, traits I don’t share myself much.
Lily Tomlin plays Elle, a poet and former English professor living in a modest house in the “Valley”, with a young lesbian partner (July Greer). After a fight in the opening scene, her evicted lover leaves her alone, which is what she seems to want to be.  But suddenly her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) knocks and comes in, in trouble and needing cash, $630 to be exact.

It isn’t long before Elle gets the purpose out of her – pregnancy termination. And odyssey through the Valley (west of the 405) follows, where Grandma tries to get the cash, gets turned down and acts like a lovable bully.

There’s the tattoo parlor, where we see a man’s chest being desecrated, for a moment.  Then there’s the boyfriend who knocked her up, played by Nat Wolff, who proves his acting capabilities with a complete change of character from “Paper Towns” (July 26), being a jerk here. The adventures continue as she meets an old love Karl (Sam Elliott) who won’t give her cash to destroy his own lineage. And then there is her daughter (Marcia Gay Harden), who finally will come up with the dough in a scene at an ATM that is effective.  And then, at the end, there are the protestors to deal with at the clinic.

What’s interesting is how such a supposedly “intellectual” woman winds up being so assertive.  Maybe it’s because she has to be.  Without a lot money, she has to be able to manipulate people to get herself or them out of continual trouble.

The official site (Sony Pictures Classics) is here.
I saw the film late Sunday night at an Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax Virginia, before a small audience. Picture: near the theater.

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