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Grandma And Her Busy Day

Updated on September 26, 2015

The movie Grandma takes a look at an eventful day in the life of Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), a poet and lecturer still dealing with widowhood. As the film begins, she angrily ends her brief relationship with Olivia (Judy Greer), a waitress half her age. After sending Olivia on her way, Elle gets an unexpected visit from her teenage granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner). Sage is pregnant, wants to end the pregnancy, and made an appointment to do just that. However, she needs the money to get the procedure. Elle has little money and cut up her credit cards in a successful effort to pay off her expenses, as well as the medical expenses incurred by her late wife. However, she does go through various scenarios with Sage so the young woman may pay for her choice.

First, they pay a visit to Sage's ex-boyfriend, Cam (Nat Wolff), who was supposed to help her pay for the abortion. After several minutes of debate, Cam gives Elle and Sage a small portion of the money. Elle's tattoo artist friend Deathy (Laverne Cox), but she, too, only has a small portion of her debt to spare. Elle has brought some of her old books, and has offered to sell them to Carla (Elizabeth Pena), a cafe owner who employs Olivia and once expressed interest in buying certain collectible books of hers. Elle and Carla haggle over price before Carla gets tired of Elle's pushiness and chases her from the shop. Elle once had a relationship with Karl (Sam Elliott) before Elle left him for her wife. Though things ended badly between them, she finds ways to convince Karl to loan her the money - until he learns its true purpose. With little time or options remaining, the ladies visit Sage's business executive mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), who shows disappointement in the news, but gets the money. The journey takes one last turn as Elle has car trouble.

Grandma is a predictable, but engaging, tale of two women trying to find their ways to the other side of their situations. Writer-director Paul Weitz keeps the story simple, and only complicates it with human nature. Each of the three generations of Elle's family lives her own life, but each of them has a determined streak in them. That streak works for them and against them at some point. Elle knows some of her words hurt, and Sage wants Judy to be the last to know about her pregnancy. The ways these women have often leave them on their own, yet they still have one another. In this movie, they show their differences don't matter at certain times. The events that occur in Grandma bring them together for one eventful day.

Tomlin worked for Weitz on their previous film, the lackluster 2013 comedy Admission, which also featured Wolff in the cast. Here, Tomlin stars, and she does a great job as Elle, who helps Sage deal with her issues, in spite of having issues of her own. Elle still misses her partner, and has decided Olivia would no longer fill the role of being the main woman in her life. In her quest to help Sage, she has to deal with her own unpleasantness, as well as other unpleasant moments from her past. She wants to be free of financial burden, but Sage comes to her grandmother, and reminds Elle that some burdens will find their way to her (though Sage is in no way a burden). Garner is charming as the worried Sage, who isn't ready for motherhood. She wants to find her own way in life, just as her mother and grandmother have. Most of the other roles are cameos, including a solid supporting performance by Elliott as Karl, whose visit from Elle reminds him how much she hurt him. Greer, Harden, Wolff, and Pena (in one of her final films) also make the most of their limited screen time.

Grandma tells the tale of two women whose paths in life are not presently to their liking. Elle and Sage have a share of the blame in their situations, so they have to accept doing things they's rather not do. Along the way, they experience all sorts of ups and downs on the way to Sage's appointment. Elle fights the good fight on Sage's behalf, only to find she can only be persuasive in a limited way. They learn a greater appreciation of family in the process. Family often offers the greatest insight into troubles, and how to resolve these troubles. Grandma Elle shows there's nobody quite like her when problem solving arises, but her flesh and blood show they have some of her traits. All who know them are now warned.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Grandma three stars. No rocking chair for Elle.


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