Lily Tomlin is Elle Reid, a 75 year-old former poet, who has just lost the love of her life, Violet. A poet, feminist, grouchy old woman, and a cursing grandma, Elle is a lot of things, but approachable is definitely not one of them. The film opens with her throwing out her decades-younger girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer), brashly calling their four-month relationship just a “footnote” compared to the happy years she spent with Violet.
She does not have time to dwell on the pain of this break-up, though, as a surprise visit from her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner) stops everything in its tracks. It turns out Sage needs a $600 abortion and doesn’t have the money to pay for it. She is too afraid to ask her strict mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), for the consequences this may evoke.
Elle does not have the money to pay for the abortion, and soon she and Sage set out on a road trip driving through Los Angeles to try and scrounge what they can. Elle, though, does not have many friends, and those that she does ask, she becomes acerbic and sour towards, making their plans to raise the money more difficult than it should be.
The best parts of the film are meeting people from both Elle and Sage’s past. Elle beating Sage’s ex-boyfriend, Cam (Nat Wolff), with his own hockey stick; getting angry in a café when the owner does not accept books that she thought were valuable; and, of course, meeting Karl (Sam Elliott) again after a long time, the only man she ever slept with.
In her first leading role in 27 years, Lily Tomlin stands out in a part that seems to be written just for her. She brings wit and compassion, as well as a tough resilience, to her role, and absolutely shines in it. This film is definitely a must-see.
Grandma opens at the Burns on Friday, September 4. Tickets are on sale now!