Grandma Screen 14 articles

Grandma

2015

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  • The film ultimately falls apart because it never finds landing points for its two key arcs. It's firstly aiming to be a tale of redemption, wherein an old, world-weary bitch reclaims her humanity after helping her granddaughter. But unlike so many movies with male leads whose characters shed their grumpy skins, Grandma is too hung up on making Elle funny to make her truly unpleasant.

  • The tightly constructed small-scale comic drama, written and directed by Paul Weitz, puts Elle face to face with a lifetime of bittersweet memories... But Weitz leaches the tough situations of emotional difficulty; the sentimental drama is a superhero movie for liberals. Elle’s faux crustiness gleams with her heart of gold, and the movie’s heroes and villains line up as obviously as in a blockbuster.

  • Each pit stop along the way peels back another layer of her hard-edged exterior, and the film traces the challenges of moving forward amidst the omnipresence of the past with sensitivity. Tomlin’s Elle has the vulnerability of Linnea in Nashville (75), the kooky matter-of-factness of Vivian, the existential detective of I Heart Huckabees (04), and the feminist prerogative that Violet was just beginning to claim in Nine to Five (80).

  • In Grandma, it’s all women: the drama is entirely centered around conflicts between women, women are in positions of power, and there are strong feminist overtones (mainly, Elle is a feminist poet, and the film often references feminist literature and ideas). It’s nice to see such a woman-centric movie, though that it was written and directed by a man (Paul Weitz) seems, for whatever reason, a little disingenuous.

  • Writer/director Paul Weitz divvies up this snappy, intimate film into six chapters with titles referencing Elle’s literary output (“The Ogre”) or the veteran activist’s “mode of production” (“Ink”).

  • Basically, these are comfortable women who have grown uncomfortable with each other and perhaps themselves. Harden and the movie go so far in the opposite direction of where you’d expect a story like this would go that it’s breathtaking watching them discover a way to surprise you. The movie’s called Grandma, but Harden expands the scope to include her conflation of motherhood and daughterdom, too.

  • A lovely, low-key film that primarily, perhaps even exclusively exists as a showcase for one of Lily Tomlin's finest performances, Grandma makes the most of an utterly formulaic set-up.

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    Sight & Sound: Vadim Rizov
    November 27, 2015 | January 2016 Issue (p. 82) | Critic's Rating: 3/5 (Letterboxd)

    Like all Weitz's films, Grandma is nothing much of note on a technical level, shot with inelegant handheld camerawork. Tomlin's character is a slightly more sophisticated variant of the tired 'bad grandma' trope introduced, and the film inevitably builds to a series of soft-focus reconciliations, capped with maudlin singer-songwriter balladry. Still, Grandma's rhetorical clarity and unambiguous politics are heartening and bracing, and more moving than the narrative proper.

  • An early scene in which Elle feuds with a coffee shop attendant (John Cho) is badly misjudged, and paints the character as a one-note comedy curmudgeon that’s grimly reminiscent of Fockers-period De Niro. It’s testament to Tomlin’s prowess as a performer, and also her plausible rapport with Garner, that the film recovers as quickly as it does. Grandma may not always know best, but it's nearly always funny and absorbing, and there are moments of emotional perspicacity to make you gulp.

  • It’s not often we see a film that portrays a 75 year old as multifaceted, and gives her zingers (the way Tomlin delivers the line, “She’s already pregnant!” when a guy looks at her granddaughter is one of the film’s best moments), so Grandma is refreshing in that record. While it is hindered by a number of precious indie trappings, it manages to be an overall poignant film, with two memorable performances at its core.

  • Found myself resisting Tomlin's tough-old-broad routine early on, but the performance (and the film) deepens over time, tracing an emotional trickle-down effect in three generations of women. Marcia Gay Harden in particular does wonders with a role that starts out as caricature and takes on very human dimensions.

  • An initially breezy family comedy about mothers, daughters and abortions that slowly sneaks up on you and packs a major wallop. A most impressive detour into low-budget DIY filmmaking for writer-director Paul Weitz, this constantly surprising character piece should spark deserved awards chatter for Tomlin and at least one of her co-stars.

  • Though the director has said that he'd had the basic idea for Grandma for years, it wasn't until he met Tomlin that he knew exactly how to write the character. Tomlin fills out the role like a tree spreading its branches and roots, though she brings a superb lightness to it, too: Elle's acidity often has a comic kick — for her, wisecracks aren't just a defense mechanism but a means of surviving the worst.

  • “Grandma” is a modestly scaled character comedy-drama that winds up exerting an almost shockingly strong emotional force by the end. I walked into a screening of the film a mild skeptic, and I left nearly in tears, and grateful for where writer-director Paul Weitz and a remarkable cast led by Lily Tomlin took me.

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