Grandma is a kind of scaled down road movie.
Young Sage (Julia Garner) is pregnant and not wishing to proceed with this unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, she needs to find upwards of $600 to pay for an abortion.
Unwilling to approach her no-nonsense, high-flying career woman of a mother for the money, she turns to plan B, Grandma.
Enter feisty and stubbornly independent Elle (Lily Tomlin) to the rescue; only it’s not quite as simple as that. You see, Elle is currently cash-poor, having, in a moment of sense, paid all of her long accumulated debts off in one foul swoop, cutting up the offending credit cards in the process. The rather nifty, ‘credit card pieces mobile’ hanging on her porch, pretty though it may be, is however probably not going to help in any monetary manner.
No matter. Elle knows people and they either owe her or she feels sure she can call upon at least some of them for some kind of financial help. Thus, with Elle’s trademark, swashbuckling bravado, so begins a day of scrambling about in Grandma’s old vintage car, on a fund-raising mission.
It’s admittedly a fairly straight forward premise, but Grandma is far more than just a set of ‘people encounters,’ in town. It’s a film that works on a much more involved level. Be it through agitating old adversaries or settling old scores, each encounter lays bare Elle’s past and present; revealing the layers of her complicated and acerbic personality.
All the while, the spirit of Violet – Elle’s relatively recently departed, long-time partner – hangs heavy over her every move and decision, not least with regards to her new, considerably younger and more enthusiastic flame, Olivia (Judy Greer).
Long standing grudges and issues, burnt bridges and unhealed wounds a plenty make for an absolute minefield of a landscape from which Lily and Sage must somehow drum up the money, and as if that wasn’t challenge enough, there’s Lily’s daughter and mother of Sage, Judy, (Marcia Gay Harden).
What will she make of it all and more importantly, who’s going to pluck up the courage to tell her?!
Never too heavy going, never superficial, properly funny in places whilst big-hearted and poignant in others, Grandma is a really nicely put together little slice-of-life indie movie.
Crucially, given the film’s potentially incendiary subject matter, it’s also a piece that refuses to cast moral judgement or enforce any conclusions upon us dictated by any pressured sense of societal political correctness. It is what it is and that is very much to the film’s enormous benefit.
Top marks to Director Paul Weitz for this story of family, friendship, trust, people’s perceptions and the raking up of old skeletons and its ultimately positive message, which is to say… In facing our pasts, with a little bit of luck we might learn something from the experience and maybe even find a little peace of mind in the process?
An undoubted 2015 highlight.