In “Grandma,” Lily Tomlin returns to center stage in this liberal comedy directed by Paul Weitz. With a fantastic ensemble starring Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, and Laverne Cox, the comedy follows Tomlin and Garner as they try to find the money to get the latter an abortion, with the road being hilariously hard.
The opening of “Grandma” is a heated one, with Tomlin’s Elle harshly ending her relationship with her girlfriend, played by an always delightful Judy Greer. After the relationship ends, Tomlin is seen crying in the shower, a huge change of tone from her rude and distant behavior seen earlier.
As she is attempting to get back to normal, her granddaughter appears with the news of a pregnancy, and asks Elle if she has any money. Trying to live a more free lifestyle, she cut up her credit cards, but promises to get her the money.
As the two navigate Elle’s past and the city in search of money, you learn about the seemingly cold and distant Elle, who definitely has some issues dealing with people. The layering that is done in her characterization is one of the most significant features of the film. The film could’ve fatally made Tomlin’s character a cold hearted bitch, but made her a human whose dealt with lots of bullshit.
By giving her a layer of humanity and softness, the film packs an emotional punch that far outweighs the comedic situations of the film. The film doesn’t make the themes and subject matter a point of politics and trying to push ideals, and it doesn’t make the drama fill up the entire space of the movie, giving it room to breathe. By doing those things, it makes the film standout where it needs to, and makes the film a wonderfully light-hearted drama that has lessons to take from it.
Julia Garner’s insecurity and child-like qualities help show that the abortion is a good idea, as she isn’t ready for the real world, an definitely not a child. She deftly lets her character feel the emotions that someone would feel when they’re getting an abortion, but doesn’t let it define her.
The film is narrow and focused, but leaves a lot to be wondered. The performances in the film are subtle and powerful and say most of what is needed in the silences. “Grandma” is a testament to our reluctance to admit when we are wrong, but also how we can’t figure everything out alone.