Lily Tomlin puts the GRAND in Grandma

I would call this movie short and sweet, except it’s more like short and tart, tart, tart!

Lily Tomlin is no ordinary grandma.

Sage (Julia Garner) is a sweet teenaged girl in need of an abortion. Or, more accurately, in need of $600 to get said abortion. Baby Daddy is a loser, so off to grandmother’s house we go to beg Grandma_web_1for termination money. Except grandma (Tomlin) has just broken up with her girlfriend (Judy Greer) (a mere “footnote” she calls her, bitingly), and has zero cash to spare. So the two embark on a weird road trip of sorts to collect on grandma’s various informal I.O.U.s from an interesting mix of characters (Sam Elliott, Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Pena) that dusts up some old secrets along the way.

I didn’t expect this movie to be so good. I think Lily Tomlin is an absolute goddess, and if we’re being honest, this, my friends, is what an Oscar-winning performance should look like. She’s both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Big congratulations to writer-director Paul Weitzย who never gives in to the temptation to soften grandma Elle, and for casting Tomlin, who inhabits the skin so fully, practically licking her fingers because she knows the performance is that good.

E955d3fa8258843c3c46b41b509a6da02lle and Sage ride around in clunky, classic style in a 1955 Dodge Royal , a car that coughs and chokes and is as irascible as Tomlin herself (in fact, it’s Tomlin’s own car). Grandmother and granddaughter are bonding over their shared mission, but also in their mutual avoidance: mom. Marcia Gay Harden plays Elle’s estranged daughter and the character is written so smartly, and is so well-acted that we forget we’ve only just met her near the end. Even her absence has felt like a presence, and the three generations are a thing to behold.

While serving up a moving little character study, this movie also achieves a creeping, quiet feminism that just feels right. And the way it treats abortion – rather casually, in fact – is remarkable.

thumbnail_22301Oh Lily Tomlin, how do I love thee? It’s really hard to tell you about the gruffness, the toughness, the cranky acerbicness, and still convey how absolutely vulnerable a performance she gives in this. And it all feels so effortless that you may not think you’re seeing a performance at all.

It’s a really special thing to see three such meaty roles written for women. These characters are complicated and they jump off the page and out of the screen in a moving and intimate way. It’s a tiny movie but deserves a wide audience, so I hope I’ve convinced you to check it out.


Meanwhile: is there any possible way that you’d ever go to your own grandma for abortion money?


31 thoughts on “Lily Tomlin puts the GRAND in Grandma

  1. kmSalvatore

    ohh im so there!!! ill be watching for it. and i guess thats the generation gap…. as u know im old enough to be your Mother.., there is NO way on Gods Green Earth i could have gone to either Mother or GrandMother(s).. well possibly my fathers Mother, i couldnt do any wrong in her eyes:))
    this sounds like a fantastic Movie, thanks Jay


      1. kmSalvatore

        I was the “Italian “Princess and the only Grand Daughter, on my fathers side, I think my gramma would have helped, and.. Covered it all up. Abortions became legal in 1970 here, that made me 17. Even being legal back then.. I know I would have needed help.


      2. Jay Post author

        That’s kind of a nice thing to be able to say about your gramma, I think!
        To know that someone would do their best to help regardless of their beliefs. You must have been close!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. olddog299

    Lily has been a jewel in Comedy’s Crown since her days as a rep performer on “Laugh-In”. I’ll look forward to this on DVD at Redbox in about six months.

    I actually did ask my maternal grandmother for said financial assistance, although it was not specifically addressed other than “I got a girl in trouble.”
    You didn’t think I could ask my Mom for help at 13, did you?

    Twas a couple of lifetimes ago. Now I’m the GP. I seriously doubt any of my 17 step-grandchildren would ask … they’d more likely demand my help.

    And So It Goes.


    1. Jay Post author

      I adore her, but she hasn’t had a starring role in years, so I was so glad to find her shining away in this one.

      You man an intersting point about being the grandparent in question. Are we allowed to keep this secret from her mother?


  3. Brittani

    To answer your question, No, I doubt my grandmother would’ve given teenage me money for that. lol

    Great review, This was a nice little film to watch, and I love how often the women kept calling each other “assholes” in it.


    1. Jay Post author

      I don’t know if my grandmother would have. She’s pretty churchy. I NEVER would have asked.
      I would have gone to my mother first, that’s for sure, but she would have had to ask my grandmother for the money anyway!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy Reese

    Wow, you convinced me, Jay! How awesome to see great roles for women. Your remark about how effortless Tomlin’s performance is that you may not feel like you’re even watching a performance says it all. If you can achieve effortlessness, then you’ve mastered it! I hope she gets some recognition for this role.


  5. DotedOn

    Road trip movie?? YAY!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Those are my favorites ever. I’ll be watching this one for sure.
    And my grandma would have tried to convince me not to get an abortion ๐Ÿ™‚ (If I ever drank enough vodka and dared to ask! ๐Ÿ˜€ )


  6. reocochran

    I really liked this review. You told enough to make me try to see this, if not at theater than renting it whenever possible. Great cast, I have liked all the roles Lily Tomlin has played. Even the movie with Lindsay Lohan in “Prairie Home Companion” or whatever that Garson Keillor radio show is called. It had singing in it, too.Wasn’t “Silkwood” one of her first movies. ๐Ÿ™‚


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