with Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Sam Elliot.
The Grandma of the title is Elle played by Lily Tomlin in a performance that gives her a lot to do and feel. Elle has one daughter and one granddaughter. The movie is so female centered that I was surprised to see that it was directed by a man (Paul Weitz) and when Sam Elliott showed up as an old flame, his voice which could always cut through steel, seemed exotic and alien.
Elle’s granddaughter Sage (Julie Garner) is pregnant and has scheduled an abortion for later that afternoon but lacks the funds to pay. When she goes to her grandmother’s house and asks for help, Elle does not have the means, having just cut all of her credit cards into pieces and made a mobile of them in a signal that she wants to be rid of debt. Elle treats the situation (young girl, unexpectedly pregnant) with the resignation of one who has lived a long life and knows what to do.
However, the way she goes about raising the money shows a remarkable lack of common sense. Asking near friends to buy her old books and then arguing with them about money is frustrating to watch. Even though Elle is known as a significant poet, the one poem we hear, Dragonflies, is not enough to convince us that she is all that great.
So what we are left with is the quest to have Sage follow through on her need to terminate the pregnancy. En route, Elle’s lack of tact and loud voice about abortion get her in trouble with several people and highlight the nation’s division on the issue.
The movie would be a feminist screed if Sam Elliot didn’t steal the picture. It is a serious movie about a serious subject. Marcia Gay Harden appears at the end as a strident mother who can be led to see reason.
If only all the women weren’t so strident (except Sage who says little and is pleasant to look at) I would have liked it better.
But Lily Tomlin is having her moment and I am grateful to watch her wide mouth open and speak the truth.