If there is one comedian in this World who is more deserving of an Oscar nomination, it’s Lily Tomlin. The woman is a classic genius, looking stunning at 76. And with “Grandma,” she doesn’t miss a beat with her performance. She’s genuine, smart, heartfelt and hilarious. Dear Academy…she hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 1975 (“Nashville”)…it’s time!
Now while Lily Tomlin is the star of the show, some of her supporting cast members also do well thanks to a strong screenplay and solid direction from Paul Weitz (“American Pie” “About a Boy” “In Good Company”). While it’s not a perfect film, it’s Weitz’s best since “About a Boy.”
Elle Reid (Tomlin) has made the decision to break up with her much younger girlfriend, Olivia (played by Judy Greer). She can’t get over the death of her longtime partner Violet from a year and half ago, and how could you? She’s emotional and somewhat angry, making it hard for her to admit love to someone else.
On the same day of the break up, Elle’s granddaughter Sage (played by Julia Garner) shows up at Elle’s looking for $630. This is because she is pregnant and would like to get an abortion at 5:45 PM on the same day. Elle doesn’t have the money that Sage is looking for because she paid off her debt and cut up all her credit cards. So now it is up to the two of them to find the money before 5:45.
First, Elle tries to find a cheaper abortion clinic that Violet use to work at, but it has been replaced with a coffee shop. Then they decide to drive to the father’s house, Cam (played by Nat Wolff), to see if he has the money yet. Once they arrive, Elle finds out soon that Cam is a worthless idiot who needs to be taught a lesson. He, too, does not have the money, but he offers them a little, after Elle does teach him that lesson.
Next, Elle tries an old friend who owes her $400, Deathy (played wonderfully by Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black”). Deathy works for a tattoo parlor and unfortunately doesn’t have the money either. However, Elle gets an idea during their visit to Deathy. She is going to sell her first edition books to Carla (played by the late Elizabeth Peña). Carla wanted to buy her books the last time they saw each other. But you can guess that doesn’t work either after Elle runs into Olivia working in Carla’s café.
Finally, Elle ends up with two more choices: try her ex-husband, Karl (played by a winning turn from Sam Elliott), the man that she was married to before she came to terms with being a lesbian or go to Elle’s daughter/Sage’s mother, the stubborn Judy (played by Marcia Gay Harden). Elle decides to try Karl first, since both Elle and Sage are scared of their “Judge Judy.” You can tell straight off that their is tension between Karl and Elle caused by an underlying issue that hasn’t been resolved. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
This is a role that Lily Tomlin was born to play. She captures the screen from the moment we see her, making this her career best performance. She needs an Oscar nomination, and I am pleading to the Academy. She is truly original talent, the kind that is hard to find today. I just can’t get enough of her.
As for the supporting cast, Sam Elliott is the next standout. His part is brief, but superb. I doubt it will be recognized by the Academy because of this year’s competition, but I would give him a nomination if it was up to me. The rest of the cast holds their weight as well, with a fantastic performance from Julia Garner and a welcoming performance from Laverne Cox.
Finally, Paul Weitz’s direction is solid, arthouse quality. It is his best film since “About a Boy,” providing a strong screenplay with smart dialogue and comedic/dramatic moments involving generations of women. The only complaint that I have is that the pacing was off at times. I felt like some moments needed to be moved along a little more, like Elle and Olivia’s confrontation in the café. It just seemed a little uneven and overdeveloped.
“Grandma” is a small, but worthy dramedy led by the amazing Lily Tomlin. The lady is pure gold, in a role that screams her name. I could watch her act for hours. Don’t forget her, Academy. Rated R.