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 for 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 Weitz 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.
Elle 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.
Oh 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?