Ellie's car: Dodge Royal (1955).
Distributor: Sony Pictures Finland.
Love & Anarchy 28th Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF).
Viewed on a screener dvd.
First HIFF screening 20 Sep 2015
HIFF Catalog and Website:
"Playing an ill-tempered lesbian on an all-day odyssey to raise the money her granddaughter needs for an abortion, [Lily] Tomlin is in her glorious element. It doesn’t hurt that there are numerous other expertly gauged performances to savor, plus a bundle of heart, in this small-scale but consistently funny and poignant comedy-drama."
"While it’s very much Tomlin’s show, the movie is actually about three generations of women – the forces that shape and scar them, the thorny histories and divergent life choices that distance them, the lessons they absorb or ignore and the ties among them that weaken but seldom break."
"And though the termination of a pregnancy is what drives the plot, that sorrowful step is treated with the gravity it warrants in a story that’s also about the many imperfect paths of motherhood. Grandma is not as self-congratulatory and in-your-face as the recent Obvious Child (…). But there’s admirable frankness, intelligence and sensitivity here. Additionally, the film is a thoughtful, funny reflection on the gains and losses of growing old."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter (HIFF Catalog)
AA: Paul Weitz is one of my favourite contemporary film directors, and in Grandma he is in great form.
Grandma seems to have been inspired by a colleague, Alexander Payne, especially by Citizen Ruth (the topic of abortion) and Nebraska (the old-timer on the road connecting with the younger generation). Both contribute to the brilliant tradition of satire of Lubitsch, Sturges, and Wilder. All dare attack topics that are deadly earnest.
Grandma is irreverent, shocking, and audacious. At the bottom there is gravity. (And gravidity).
Grandma belongs also to the tradition of Une vieille dame indigne / The Shameless Old Lady (René Allio directed the film inspired by a short story by Bertolt Brecht).
Grandma starts with the rampage of the septuagenarian butch Ellie Reid (Lily Tomlin) who meets the dude who has made her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) pregnant and evades responsibility. Ellie hits his balls with his own ice hockey club. Sage reveals that her mother calls Ellie misanthropic. "That's an understatement". The first acts of the story are an escalation of disasters aggravated by Ellie's existential lack of diplomacy.
The turning-point is the key scene with Karl (Sam Elliott), Ellie's ex-husband before she came out. The wounds have not healed in fifty years. The switch from farce to profound emotion deserves comparison with Leo McCarey.
But then we meet Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), Ellie's daughter, Sage's mother, in full speed at her treadmill desk, one of the most formidable harridans in film history, almost as awesome as the ones that have been rampant in Finnish cinema during the last decades.
The film is funny and unpredictable. There is a core of genuine emotion, a concern for loneliness and neglect, and a celebration of the life force in unexpected places.
The dialogue is witty, the comic timing of the actors perfect. This is Lily Tomlin's show. Sam Elliott brings a strong counterweight to a key sequence. All are good.
EIRA HEINÄMIES, HIFF CATALOG:
EIRA HEINÄMIES, HIFF CATALOG:
Paul Weitzin uuden indie-elokuvan kyynistä ja rääväsuista isoäitiä ei voi kuin rakastaa. American Pien (1999), Pojan (2002) ja In Good Companyn (2004) ohjanneen Weitzin draamakomedia Grandma esittelee seitsemänkymppisen kovanaaman, jolle ei auta sanoa vastaan.
Grandma on omistettu koomikkona kannuksensa hankkineelle Lily Tomlinille, joka nähdään yhdestä päivästä kertovan elokuvan jokaisessa kohtauksessa. Tomlinin esittämä feministirunoilija Elle on juuri pistänyt välit poikki nuoreen tyttöystäväänsä Oliviaan (Judy Greer), kun hänen tyttärentyttärensä Sage (Julia Garner) ilmestyy ovelle ja pyytää apua.
Elle ja Sage lähtevät ajamaan ympäri Los Angelesia ratkaistakseen tytön ongelman. Pienimuotoisessa road moviessa tilanteet matkan varrella kohdattujen ihmisten kanssa poikkeuksetta kärjistyvät, kun pelkkä sanan voima ei riitä äkkipikaiselle Ellelle ja tämän itsehillintä pettää yhä uudelleen.
Tomlinin rehellisen ja oikeudentajuisen kovismummon omia harteita painaa läheisen hiljattainen menetys. Yhden päivän road tripin aikana hän kohtaa menneisyytensä sekä päätyy tarkastelemaan hankalaa suhdettaan Sagen äitiin, tyttäreensä Judyyn (Marcia Gay Harden).
Weitzin sympaattinen elokuva kokoaa parrasvaloihin kolmen sukupolven naiset, jotka ovat tottuneet pärjäämään ilman miehiä.
SCOTT FOUNDAS, VARIETY:
Sundance Film Review: ‘Grandma’
Lily Tomlin brings deep reserves of anger and sorrow to this constantly surprising character piece.
Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm
Elle Reid, a tart-tongued septuagenarian author who charges through life like a bull in a china shop, is the sort of character Lily Tomlin might have created decades ago and added to her repertoire alongside Ernestine the indiscreet telephone operator and Edith Ann, the philosophical 5-year-old in her oversized rocking chair. But it’s doubtful the 75-year-old Tomlin could have played Elle then with the same deep reserves of anger and sorrow she brings to “Grandma,” an initially breezy family comedy about mothers, daughters and abortions that slowly sneaks up on you and packs a major wallop. A most impressive detour into low-budget DIY filmmaking for writer-director Paul Weitz (“American Pie,” “About a Boy”), this constantly surprising character piece should spark deserved awards chatter for Tomlin and at least one of her co-stars, as well as solid (if far from “Juno”-sized) indie box office.
Weitz (who first worked with Tomlin on the middling 2013 campus comedy “Admission”) has clearly written a lot of the actress herself into Elle, and like Michael Keaton in the recent “Birdman,” Tomlin plays the part with a certain air of knowing self-regard and the gratitude of a performer who long ago aged out of Hollywood leading-lady roles. A poet whose work is catnip to women’s-studies majors and the like, Elle hasn’t written much since the death of her longtime partner, Violet, and has only sharpened her acerbic defenses against the world. When we first see her, she’s in the midst of breaking up with her new and much younger girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer) — one of a few early scenes in “Grandma” that feel a bit rushed and underwritten. Then Elle’s teenage granddaughter Sage (frizzy-haired Julia Garner) shows up out of the blue and announces that she’s pregnant and needs Elle’s help to terminate it.
Weitz has a lot of expositional baggage to unload, and for a while “Grandma” doesn’t engender much audience confidence. Sage has made an appointment at an abortion clinic for that very afternoon, and they don’t have another slot available for days. But, she’s flat broke and her mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), whom she doesn’t really want to bring into this anyway, has recently confiscated her credit card. Elle, meanwhile, has just finished paying off all her credit-card debt — an accomplishment she celebrated by cutting them up and turning the plastic pieces into a wind chime. (“I’m transmogrifying my life into art,” she proudly declares.) The only possible solution, of course, is to take to the streets of L.A. in Elle’s vintage Dodge Royal and go door-to-door in search of the $600 Sage needs for the procedure (an amount that prompts outrage from Elle, who exclaims: “Where can you get a reasonably priced abortion these days?”)
That gently contrived premise — a gynecological “Nebraska,” if you will — is enough to get “Grandma” on the road, literally and figuratively. And as the characters crisscross the city over the course of the day, their journey becomes an unforced but unmistakably political survey of three generations of independent womanhood in America. Like Tomlin herself, Elle was an out lesbian long before it was widely accepted, and her daughter, Judy, had Sage through an anonymous sperm donor. And now it is Sage’s turn to make a critical decision about her own body and the life of her unborn child — a decision, “Grandma” unambiguously argues, it is hers and only hers to make.
The first act of “Grandma” plays out in fairly broad strokes, with the ill-tempered Elle wreaking predictable havoc in a gourmet coffee shop (unforgivably built on the former site of a free women’s clinic), a hipster women’s cafe (where she tries to sell her prized first editions of “The Feminine Mystique” to the disinterested proprietress, played by the late Elizabeth Pena), and the living room of Sage’s deadbeat boyfriend (Nat Wolff), whom she attacks with his own hockey stick. Such scenes are lightly diverting and often very funny thanks to Tomlin’s wonderfully cutting delivery, the spunky Gerner’s agog reaction shots, and Weitz’s smart, barbed dialogue. (This is surely the first movie in history where “solipsist” and “writer-in-residence” become epithets in a jilted-lover screaming match.) But where “Grandma” takes an unexpected turn, and really hooks you, is in a long mid-film sequence that finds Elle and Sage alighting at the home of Karl (Sam Elliott), a mystery man Elle’s past whose deep pockets just might save the day.
What follows is probably the single finest scene Tomlin and Elliott have ever played onscreen — a knowing, tender and, finally, devastating reunion between two old friends whose lives intertwined once upon a time and who have been irrevocably scarred by the decisions they made back then. Still slender and tan and dry as the desert wind, Karl tallies up ex-wives, kids and grandkids while Elle rolls a joint and joins him on a stroll down memory lane. And gradually, as we come to understand who these two people have been to each other and what happened to cleave them apart, the scene accrues a stunning emotional power. The 70-year-old Elliott, who has played countless cowboys, lawmen and tough guys, has never opened himself up like this in a movie before, or seemed so fragile and vulnerable beneath the flinty macho facade. In about 10 minutes of screen time, he creates a fuller, richer character than most actors do given two hours, and Tomlin is every bit as good as the woman who understands his pain but is helpless to relieve it.
“Grandma” continues to negotiate a nimble balance between the poignant and the ribald all the way to the finish of its brisk 78-minute running time, including a terrific bit where Elle and Sage finally confront the workaholic Judy in her office (where she works at a moving “treadmill desk”). Though likely to be variously praised and pilloried as a pro-choice film, Weitz’s film is really a movie about choice in both the specific and the abstract — about the choices we make, for good and for ill, and how we come to feel about them through the prism of time. “Time passes. That’s for sure” reads an onscreen epigram at the start of “Grandma,” a quotation from the poet Eileen Myles (another model for the Tomlin character), and like Myles, Weitz suggests there are few other certainties in life. We will grow older, maybe wiser, perhaps a bit more tolerant, but no closer to understanding the stirrings of the human heart.
Sundance Film Review: 'Grandma'
Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 26, 2015. Running time: 78 MIN.
About the director Paul Weitz: Filmography: Grandma, 2015 Admission, 2013 Being Flynn, 2012 Little Fockers, 2010 Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, 2009 American Dreamz, 2006 In Good Company, 2004 About a Boy, 2002 Down to Earth, 2001 American Pie, 1999