Cinestudio preview: Lily Tomlin in “Grandma”

Arriving soon to our wonderful Cinestudio comes “Grandma,” a recent dramatic comedy directed by Paul Weitz. Fresh off the screen of Sundance Film Festival in Utah, “Grandma” boasts the honor of not only being the closing picture of the widely celebrated and highly competitive cinema festival, but also the first that legend Lily Tomlin has starred in since 1988. Weitz, a fellow NESCAC grad, I won’t say which but it ends in—Esleyan, who many know from the classic comedy “American Pie” (1999), which he co-directed with his brother. More recently, he directed “Admission” (2013) with stars Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, which received fantastic reviews from critics and public alike for his new potential classic.
The film primarily regards the character Elle (Lily Tomlin), a post-menopausal lesbian poet viewed by the audience after she breaks up with her short- lived younger girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer). Elle, who is seen briefly reminiscing about her past as an unbridled flower child, is suddenly faced with a strange dilemma when her young, lackadaisical granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) walks through her door, pregnant and asking for a $630 abortion. Both Sage and Elle are practically broke—the former because her hyperactive mother confiscated her credit card, and the latter simply because made wind chimes out of hers. In classic film fashion, the two decide to embark on an epic road trip during which they stop first to accost the slacker father of Sage’s baby, played by a very much grown up Nat Wolff (whom many would recognize for the role of his youth on Nickelodeon’s Naked Brothers Band). Then, they visit a former lover of Elle’s when she lived a heterosexual life played by Sam Elliot and his thick, gravelly resonance. Finally, they muster enough courage to see Elle’s daughter/ Sage’s mother (Marcia Gay Harden) for whom they again ask for money but in turn get ridiculed aggressively by her fiery personality.
Naturally, with a character such as Elle, a template for “eccentric woman over the hump,” there is without a doubt a place for comedy. A resentment of the young generation, a misunderstanding of certain normalities of today, and an unrestrainable deadpan realism all pervade the personality that must be created for such a character. And anyone who watched “Laugh In” in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s would know that this challenging but ultimately hilarious embodiment is perfectly suited for the amazing Lily Tomlin. With a career that extends far and wide—from an off broadway beginning to winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Nashville to even voicing “Mrs. Frizzle” in the TV Series “The Magic Schoolbus,” the comedian and actor is truly versatile. Considered by the San Francisco Chronicle to be “one of our best comedic actresses for the past 50 years,” Lily Tomlin has consistently made people die of laughter, starting early with her unforgettable characters Edith Ann (a naively philosophical 5 and a half year old), Ernestine (a relentlessly condescending telephone operator), and recently adding “Elle” to her grand collection.
Within this atmosphere of an extremely awkward and trying experience, Tomlin actually makes us laugh at the absurdity of life and turn the subject into dark comedy. There is something unique about the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. They possess the wisdom of one’s parents to an even greater extent, yet because of some benign disconnect of two generations and a generally more lenient attitude, we find it easier to confide in them and gain a friendship strengthened by family. Through the conflict in this bond that is found in the movie, one can understand that it is not necessarily about aging but about how much we can learn about ourselves at any age. “Grandma” may be one of the best film manifestations of this idea.
Grossing a whopping $6.8 million in the box office with a meager $600,000 budget, “Grandma” is certainly making a name for itself with the public already. Huge names in the media including New York Times, Time Magazine, and The New York Post all give the film extremely positive ratings. Not to mention a rare 92% on esteemed review site Rotten Tomatoes—”Grandma” has indefinitely achieved something The Wrap calls “without a doubt one of the year’s best films.” “Grandma” will be playing at Cinestudio Nov. 12-14.

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