All actors could use a little Grandma late in their careers, an opportunity to take it on the road, unbuffered and unbridled, reminding us of their talents and what we always liked about them. Writer/director Paul Weitz’s film fits that bill rather nicely for Lily Tomlin, who plays Elle Reid, recently dumped by her much younger girlfriend Olivia (Judy “say goodbye to these!” Greer). Tomlin is very good in Grandma, as is Julia Garner (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who plays her preggo granddaughter Sage who needs $600 for, you know, a procedure, before the day is out. (Garner’s Harpo Marx fright wig is actually her own hair but trust me it grows on you.) Good, too, is Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Sage’s overbearing, workaholic mother Judy. In fact, the film is filled with strong female characters like Elle and Olivia and Sage and Judy, brought to life by a commanding cadre of performers. It’s a drama and a comedy and a road movie rolled into one—a small one, not earth-shattering, but genuine. Sam Elliott gets a brief look-in as an embittered ex (“I always liked women, I just didn’t like myself,” Elle explains stoically), as does the deadbeat co-producer of Sage’s fetus (Nat Wolff), but these boys are definitely on the side. Weitz, whose filmography has been frustratingly up (American Pie, In Good Company, About a Boy) and down (American Dreamz, Little Fockers, Down to Earth) over the years, delivers a spry script and some solid direction, allowing Tomlin and her fellow thesps to do some excellent work.
(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth