GRANDMA Review — My, What Big Teeth You Have

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Grandma ReviewJust because this film has a warm and fuzzy title like Grandma doesn’t mean it’s going to be all home baked sugar cookies and bedtime stories. Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma Elle” is cruel, acerbic and abrasive. That’s not to say that the septuagenarian’s performance isn’t stellar. It’s just that when you take an unlikeable character and put her in a sour situation, you get a film that’s hard to appreciate and even harder to enjoy. This is not the kind of movie you happily skip away from after the credits role. It’s the kind you drag yourself straight to the nearest bar afterwards, for a good stiff one.

There’s a dark cloud hanging over the film from the very beginning: we see Tomlin, as Elle, brutally breaking up with her much younger and more attractive girlfriend. That’s when granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner — The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Americans) knocks on her door. It seems the high schooler is pregnant, and needs $600 for an abortion. Sage’s boyfriend is a jerk, and things are complicated with her wealthy mother, so she doesn’t want to tell her. But because Grandma Elle has no savings and cut up her credit cards, the two go on a journey to scrounge up the cash, contacting a random collection of people Elle hasn’t seen in years. She gives them half hearted apologies in an effort to scrounge up the funds. Sam Elliott, by the way, is one of those people, and worth the price of admission alone.

But as you find out just how thoughtlessly Grandma Elle has behaved in the past, you find little sympathy for her in the present. Yes, she is grief stricken over a lost love, but the resulting crankiness gets old after awhile. When did writer/director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy, and more recently, the excellent Amazon TV series Mozart in the Jungle) go so dark? This is the kind of quirky, low-key indie that will probably gain Tomlin lots of awards attention, but not much interest at the box office. It’s a film you think you should see, but not necessarily one you want to see.

Rated R

1 Hour 22 Minutes

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GRANDMA Review — My, What Big Teeth You Have

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

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