HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:75
How do you describe a movie that you both enjoyed and hated at the same time? This was me after watching “Grandma”. I really was eager for the film due to the presence of Lily Tomlin and Judy Greer. I glossed over the description of the film but I knew the basic premise, so I was prepared for having a conflict of emotions due to the fact that the premise is basically a road trip to get an abortion, with a few growing twists along the way. However I was completely unprepared for the disjointed and clumsy ending of the film, despite the fact that Lily Tomlin is incredible as her role as the grandmother in the film.
Everyone in this film is a mess, and it certainly shows. Elle (Lily Tomlin) is an aging woman who has just gotten over the fact that her wife, Violet, has passed away in the last year and a half. She’s dating Olivia (Judy Greer), a woman almost 20 years her younger and has roughly tossed her away after a cold and unimpassioned speech about being only a footnote in her life after living 38 years with the lover of her life. However cold she might seem, Elle is not the cold hearted witch she appears to be. Sobbing her eyes out in the bathroom you see past the veneer and see a glimpse at what lies beneath the surface. To make matters more interesting, Elle’s granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), shows up on her doorstep asking for $600 so that she can get an unplanned pregnancy terminated that same day.
What happens next is a road trip of slightly epic proportions as the broke grandmother and her knocked up granddaughter visit every place they can think of for money. While this may not seem daunting to most of us, Elle has pretty much burned every bridge she has ever built by being sarcastic, angry and a self-proclaimed misanthrope. Trying to sell some books fails, as does collecting old debts, and even borrowing money from an old straight flame goes up in smoke, leaving them with the terrible decision of going to visit Sage’s mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), whom they have been avoiding due to the fact that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64874[/img]I have to bluntly say that I’m a strong opponent of abortion. I understand that’s not a popular opinion in some crowds, but I have beliefs that fly in the face of it, which makes the movie a part of a love/hate opposition. The constant understanding that a terminated pregnancy was very disconcerting the entire time, making the impact of the film feel almost hollow to me. However, there are a LOT of films where we watch something distasteful being done on screen, even glorification of it, that are still good movies due to the plot structure and acting. In a sense this is one of those films. I detested the underlying purpose of the road trip, but really enjoyed the character interactions along the way. Elle is a struggling woman who is completely misanthropic (otherwise known as a distaste for humanity in general) and it’s amazing to watch her interact. Lily Tomlin is fantastic in the role, spouting out abrasive one liners and insulting comments to people in a spitfire sort of way is breathtaking to behold. You both love and hate the old bird at the same time and don’t feel bad about it.
The film is less about the end result at the clinic, but really a journey of discovery for the characters in the film. Elle has to come to grips with her own flaws, and piece her life back together after a very painful event. Even if that means eating some humble pie and admitting she makes mistakes. One of the very best scenes in the entire film is a confrontation between her and an ex-lover played by Sam Elliot. It is easily one of the most powerful scenes in the entire movie and a poignant reminder of mistakes made and respect lost. Judy Greer is likeable and loveable every time she’s on screen (she’s hard not to love) and even though she’s only in the movie a few minutes you really root for her. Julia Garner does a wonderful job as Sage, playing a character that is just coming into her own. She’s mousy and timid, and takes just about everything that’s handed out to her. Which is pretty indicative of a child who’s in this position. She’s put in a position that is terrifying for an adult, let alone a teenager, then thrown into a whirlwind of chaos when she departs with Elle. Both characters learn a bit from each other along the way. Elle is an untampered fire, but given the opportunity to care for her granddaughter once more ignites the humanity within her once again, while Sage gets a little bit of her Grandmother’s brutally honest courage by the end of the short 79 minute of a day.
At the same time I have some reservations about the actual direction of the movie. While I hated the premise of the abortion, I loved the characters, but there is a middle “issue” to address. The issue is that the plot sort of meanders and dosie dos throughout without any sense of true purpose. What happens, happens, and even the ending of the film has a hard time staying focused. I can’t put my finger on it, but something just feels “off” about the story. Which really surprised me considering the work of the director and the inclusion of Lily Tomlin. Tomlin really has a blast with her comedic talents as the abrasive and almost unlikeable grandmother, but beyond that the plot just didn’t have enough to grasp.
Rated R for language and some drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64882[/img]“Grandma” is a great looking Blu-ray that really has very few, if any, flaws to the image. Sparkling with bright colors and wonderful clarity, the 1.85:1 AVC encoded image gives us every bit of detail you could ask for. Colors are warm and inviting, with an amber hue to the film that gives the skin tones a nice look, and coupled with the extremely bright whites (this seems to be a strange fad going on lately) the colors are just pop off the image in every scene. There is a wonderful sense of depth and intimacy to the pictures, as you can see every little bit of fine detail from the wrinkles on Lily Tomlin’s hands to the rustic chairs of the diner she and Sage visit to sell her books. Blacks are deep and jet black, without falling prey to crush or washed out darks. There is a few spots where the film looks a bit soft, but those shots fade quickly and fall back to the digitally crisp image on screen.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64890[/img]With a dramedy film like this you know what type of audio mix you’re going to get and 9 times out of 10 you’ll be right. Front heavy and locked up in the center channel with tons of dialog is the standard way of mixing a film like this and you would not be wrong if you guessed that. Dialog is the main focus of the film and takes up a good 90% of the sounds on screen. Said dialog is strong with no sounds of distortion or imbalance with the limited effects and is straight up front in the center speaker. There is some side usage of the mains as the rest of the track gets pushed there with some added support by the LFE channel for noises such as a car door slamming or the like. The surrounds really aren’t active very much and I barely heard them used the entire. A good track, there is no technical flaws to really speak of, just the fact that it’s a dialog HEAVY movie with limited sounds to trickle to the other speakers. It does what is asked of it, and it does it well.
• A Family Portrait: The Making of Grandma
• Q&A with Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott, and director Paul Weitz
• Commentary with Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott, Julia Garner and Paul Weitz
“Grandma” is a film that leaves me oddly uncomfortable, yet strangely attracted to the oddball dramedy. Lily Tomlin is a sight to behold, and her characterization of Elle is more than fun, but I dislike the premise of the movie so much, and way it unfolds that I’m split almost directly down the middle. The story itself is bitter sweet, with equal amounts of bitter and sweet, but also irreverently hilarious at the same time. It’s one of those movies that you have to see for yourself to know if you’ll enjoy it, as it is definitely an oddball. Especially if you have any strong beliefs on the pregnancy issue. Audio and video are great, and the extras are actually amazingly funny, even though they are a bit sparse. Definitely something I would rent before buying.
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Judy Greer
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Written by: Paul Weitz
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Main Audio: English, French, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1, Thai DD 5.1
Studio: Sony Classics
Runtime: 79 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 9th 2016
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