When her newly pregnant teenage granddaughter turns up on her doorstep asking for help, a no-nonsense lesbian grandma sets out on a journey to help her grandchild with an abortion, while both teaching and learning some life lessons with hilarious consequences in this quirky Indie “dramedy” starring comedy legend Lily Tomlin.
It’s not difficult to see why some have dubbed ‘Grandma’ as the “feminist” ‘Nebraska’, both are charming and quirky Indie comedy/dramas that bridge the perspectives of different generations within dysfunctional families, and both star straight-talking elderly screen legends.
But whereas ‘Grandma’ lacks some of the Oscar-nominated artistic flair of Alexander Payne’s ‘Nebraska’, it certainly doesn’t hesitate to flesh out a distinctly “pro-choice” narrative that although relatively rare, is becoming increasingly common.
Lily Tomlin stars as a cantankerous ageing lesbian academic with a colourful but dramatic past which has left her estranged from her daughter and incapable of sustaining relationships since the death of her life partner.
‘Grandma’ sits somewhere between a road movie and a family drama and director Paul Weitz does a good job of balancing the comedy that comes from “Grandma’s” way of handling people and the pathos from the decisions that have shaped her life and the people around her.
And that’s what ‘Grandma’ is ultimately about, yes it’s a “dramedy” from a lesbian perspective, but really it’s a film about the choices in life. From the “pro-choice” stance taken regarding the central abortion theme that drives the narrative, and which some audiences may take issue with. To the decisions that Tomlin’s character unapologetically takes which shape more than just her own existence, for better or worse.
But despite a distinct 21st century story featuring a gay main character and central driving theme of abortion, ‘Grandma’ is both a familiar tale and character, which we’ve seen tackled from a variety of angles. We’re all familiar with the elderly scrooge-like character that goes on a journey which leads to self-discovery and redemption.
Despite Lily Tomlin’s strong central performance, the rest of the cast don’t quite manage to reach her heights, with the main grandma-granddaughter relationship lacking in chemistry, all within a narrative that’s too familiar and which predictably wraps things up in a bow.
The Bottom Line…
‘Grandma’ features a distinguished Lily Tomlin central performance within a funny and occasionally touching 21st Century story, but a rather familiar narrative and predictable characters, plus a lack of nuance make this an entertaining little “dramedy” rather than a modern Indie gem.
Bruce Dern stars in an Oscar nominated performance as Woody Grant, an alcoholic elderly man driving his small town family to despair with his obsession with getting to Nebraska to claim his supposed 1 million dollar Mega Sweepstakes magazine price.
Directed by Alexander Payne and starring Bruce Dern, June Squibb and Will Forte among others.