Lily Tomlin takes her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) to the abortion clinic in Grandma.

Lily Tomlin takes her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) to the abortion clinic in Grandma.

Reel Reviews: Tomlin plays atypical Grandma

Taylor and Howe say, “Grandma is "a quick, quirky little movie about almost nothing.”

  • Nov. 20, 2015 5:00 a.m.

Lily Tomlin is Grandma. After a terrible morning spent breaking up with her girlfriend, Grandma is visited by her teenage granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner). Sage needs $600 for an abortion. Grandma doesn’t have the money, but thinks she can get it.

The two drive around town calling in favours, trying to raise the money before the clinic closes. Finally, admitting failure, the two succumb to their last resort, asking Sage’s mom (Marcia Gay Harden) for help.

We say, “It’s a quick, quirky little movie about almost nothing.”

TAYLOR: I liked the way this film was laid out, in little segments, like pointless chapters, although we always just follow Grandma.

I liked Grandma herself, her grumpy lesbian poet seemed very real, but in an extreme way. She went out of her way to make a point about things, theatrically. I could see why people would feel Tomlin’s performance is fake or flaky. I think Grandma herself is fake and flaky, so it works.

However, I thought a lot of the writing was weak, with characters saying things that didn’t need saying and a serious lack of story. Sometimes life is like this; sometimes people have to deal with these things. This tale is of one such situation. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s… real. Nobody in the film seemed to care too much; neither do I.

HOWE: I’m not going to say this is one of the worst movies I have seen this year, but it will be up there with them. The movie itself doesn’t seem to do anything. Grandma and granddaughter drive, looking to scrounge money off former friends and lovers so they can pay for an abortion. That’s the whole movie.

The acting isn’t that great either, especially from Julia Garner who plays the granddaughter, Sage. The way she delivers her lines becomes monotone, a bit like the teacher out of the Peanuts movie last week.

Overall, I wasn’t impressed and that’s a shame because it had a nice cast otherwise: Tomlin, Sam Elliott and Gay Harden. I expected better.

Every time Grandma opened her mouth some expletive would explode and to be truthful, it wasn’t needed. Yes, by all means, make her a curmudgeon, but this was just overboard. If I wanted to hear those sorts of words, I could have them free from my neighbour.

TAYLOR: When stated as “Grandma’s road trip to the abortion clinic,” it sounds like either a whacky comedy or heartfelt drama, yet Grandma is neither. It’s not about the abortion, nor the personal choices made, although the characters do address that these things have been considered. The problem is we are not privy to these considerations.

The film has no heart because it’s missing the meat of the matter. The audience has to further ignore the obvious question of “why is it so imperative to raise the money today?” Sage could have just made another appointment the next day, but this urgency pushes the film forward. Still, in the end, nothing much happens; life goes on for almost everyone. The film draws no conclusions. It’s a slice of life. It is, however, something different and therefore has value.

– Taylor gives Grandma 2.5 O tattoos out of 5.

– Howe gives it 2 punches out of 5.

Grandma is playing at the Vernon Towne Cinema.

– Brian Taylor and Peter Howe’s Reel Reviews appears in The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.