Grandma – New Release Review

grandma - stillWe take a look at this Lily Tomlin led comedy as it opens on DVD today…

Young Sage (played by a likeable Julia Garner) has a problem: she’s gotten herself knocked up, which was very foolish of her, but she’s scheduled an abortion appointment for 17:45 that evening, which is very sensible of her, but she only has $18 out of the $630 she needs for the procedure. So – keeping the whole thing a secret from her highly-strung but rarely-seen mother – she pays a visit to her grandmother, an aging poet who has just that morning broken up with her much younger girlfriend, Olivia, and is also having a rough time getting over the death of her partner of thirty-eight years, Violet. Grandma Elle doesn’t have any money, either, because she’s a free spirit who just that week decided to pay off all her debts and cut up her credit cards. So, deadline looming, the two have no choice but to take off in Violet’s classic Dodge and meet up with an assortment of what can only be described as characters in their quest for the money.

With its self-conscious chapter titles, frequent profanity, and basically unlikeable protagonist, the early half of the film sets itself up to fail, hard. As Grandma Elle blabs to strangers about Sage’s embarrassing condition, holds things up in order to get a quick tattoo, and commits home invasion, assault, and theft on a teenage boy, the film can’t seem to decide whether it’s meant to be Falling Down, Transamerica, or Dirty Grandpa. The disjointed, vignette-based nature of the plot and its sheer contrivance – Sage believes it essential she get the abortion as soon as possible and Elle, ordinarily outspoken, never bothers correcting her on this, purely so the film has an arbitrary ticking clock; and, in any case, why not just sell the Dodge? – conspire to annoy. But halfway through the picture, Elle makes a stop at the home of her old flame, a clean-shaven Sam Elliott, and there ensues a long and melancholy examination of age and heartbreak. Elliott is as adept as expected, and it is at this point, just as Grandma Elle begins to reveal herself as more complex and less abrasive than she has so far seemed, that Lily Tomlin’s performance begins to reveal its subtlety and its unexpected elegance. With some thematic drive to the story, and having worked wackiness out of its system, the picture strides confidently into its gentle, moving final act. Whether it is, by that point, too late will be left up to the viewer, but at only seventy-five minutes Grandma gives more returns on the small investment asked for than could reasonably be demanded, a likeable little exploration of age, grief, lesbianism, motherhood and its opposite, and female family relationships.

Grandma arrives on Digital HD and DVD today (April 4), will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!


  1. Yeah I really found this to be a nice surprise. Not always consistent but the performances are universally strong. I think it was my introduction to Lily Tomlin as well

    1. Same here I think.

  2. Tomlin really makes this movie work. Even when the script seems to fail her. Nice review.

    1. Thanks, nice comment!

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