For Reel

Grandma (2015)
September 21, 2015, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Paul Weitz
4 Stars
GrandmaIn the centerpiece of Grandma, an aging poet (Lily Tomlin) tries to call in a favor from an old flame (Sam Elliott). Their conversation starts off amiably–he offers her and her granddaughter (Julia Garner) vegetables from his garden and hospitably invites them inside. He concedes to a transaction on the condition of a simple kiss. Then the situation slowly starts to drift into something dark as small pieces of information suggest a much more complex, fraught history than originally assumed. His mood turns harsh and unwelcoming, admitting that the years have only made his resentments burn deeper. It’s a beautifully acted, efficiently told sequence–one that slowly unveils a complicated history through only small written clues and the tonal shifts by the actors–and is demonstrative of what makes the best scenes in Grandma really work. Occasionally, Tomlin is wrought a little too close to the vulgar granny archetype, as when she assaults her granddaughter’s loser boyfriend for not forking over money. But for the most part, Grandma rings completely true in the way that it points to life’s untidiness, and the uniformly excellent cast–Marcia Gay Harden has a terrifically shaded role as Tomlin’s daughter–makes the most out of it.

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