Turning the feistiness factor up to eleven and as acerbic as it gets, Lily Tomlin, who’s still on the comedy circuit at the age of 76, seizes this movie by the scruff of its neck. In a stand-out screen role, she then wrestles the script to the ground and beats it with a hockey stick. Deadly as a two-tongued snake, Tomlin is terrific as the eponymous grandma of the title, bo-ho gay poet Elle, with her teenage granddaughter Sage played by the luminous Julia Garner.
Life, death and 600 dollars are the issue when Sage turns up unannounced on her grandma’s doorstep, pregnant and looking for the cash for an abortion. Elle’s just despatched her own young lover from her home, but her articulate anger hides something of a soft heart, at least where Sage is concerned. The term writer-in-residence is the ultimate insult to Elle. She sees that kind of post, as being a literary cop-out, but poor as a church mouse, has had to cut up her credit cards to control her own spending.
Despite being cash-strapped, she’s still prepared to help the troubled teen, as well as get her to stand up better for herself in society. The hockey stick comes into play when they visit Sage’s loser stoner boyfriend, but Elle isn’t short of confrontations, as the dynamic duo hit the road in this west coast morality tale. Her temper is rocket fuelled, as they take on the world.
The man born to play a cowboy, Sam Elliott, plays a typically laconic part, when Elle revisits a painful part of her own past. With About a Boy director Paul Weitz also taking up the pen on this charged Californian caper, it packs a wicked punch. But it will also bring a tear to the eye, as well as many laugh out loud moments. With a deft touch, followed by a slugger punch, you may well examine your own moral attitudes on how to deal with a family crisis. Laughter and tears, a potent mix.
by Liz Kennedy
Grandma is a certificate 15 and weighs in at a punchy 79 minutes