Review: Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma” Packs A Punch, Literally

Lily Tomlin as Grandma

“I need six hundred dollars. Six hundred and thirty,” aren’t exactly the words most granddaughters use to greet their grandmothers, but average isn’t the forte in this family.

Directed by American Pie’s Paul Weitz “Grandma” starts us off on what will become a family adventure when Sage (played by Julia Garner) shows up on her grandma’s doorstep.

Sage faces a common situation feared by many teens—pregnancy. She decides to enlist help from her feminist –and quite free-willed– grandma Elle (played by Lily Tomlin) to fix her predicament. (Isn’t that what grandma’s are for?)

Grandma Elle, however, already has a lot going on. We soon learn she’s a hard-as-nails lesbian poet who’s not yet over the death of her lover of 40 years and prior to Sage’s arrival she had just kicked out her much younger girlfriend/former student from her home. Then her granddaughter shows up asking for help with an abortion –it’s quite a day for Elle.

Anyway, Grammy’s broke –and she for some reason decided to use her credit cards as decorative wind chimes for her front porch– so she and Elle decide to visit old friends, lovers, and enemies in hopes of garnering additional funds. At one point, instead of a traditional visit to the bank for a loan, Grandma Elle reaches out to her tattoo artist for cash. Both grandma and granddaughter agree that mom (played by Marcia Gay Harde) should not be informed of this unpleasant surprise –so she’s not in the mix at this point.

The “sort-of” boyfriend involved in this conundrum proves to be nothing more than a sperm donor. Thankfully, for soft-spoken Sage, good ol’ Grandma Elle uses more than a few poetic words to teach him a lesson (that’s right, she has no qualms about hitting a teenage boy).

Yes, this is a sublime, comic journey, and a superb Tomlin has seldom been better. “Grandma” is a wry, moving family tale that provides a fresh take on the relationship between three generations of women and even though there is an abundance of laughs the film packs a serious punch. Full of painful memories of a deceased loved one, confusing pasts and hurtful decisions, “Grandma” has moments that anyone can relate to. Also, with a grandmother who’s a badass lesbian poet as lead, it’s hard not to love this movie.

“Grandma” premieres in theaters August 21, 2015.

Directed, produced and directed by: Paul Weitz

Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Judy Greer, Marcia Gay Harden, Laverne Cox

Our rating: A

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