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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

GRANDMA (2015)

The best thing about Paul Weitz’s well-reviewed character dramedy is finding a Pro-Choice film that neither cops out nor trivializes the main issue. (He does stick in a sweet Pro-Life tyke to throw a nasty comic punch at Lily Tomlin, but still . . . )*  If only there was more to celebrate. Tomlin (aging lesbian poet/lit prof/cranky paper-tiger) has just broken up with a much younger girlfriend when her knocked-up teenage granddaughter comes a’knockin’. The girl needs cash for an abortion and (wouldn’t you know it) Tomlin’s cut all her credit cards into pieces. (Apparently, no one’s heard of calling for a replacement card.) So these two tough cookies (one crunchy, one chewy) drive around town, hoping to dig up the funds they need from an assortment of possible cash cows: pimply boyfriend, ex-lover from a hetero past, et al., and finally, the girl’s disapproving mom. Weitz misjudges our interest in this motley gang, and their ability to sustain a narrative. Worse, when in doubt, he goes long & cute, his usual fallback position. Tomlin earns a few honest, uncomfortable laughs, mostly when she’s on the move in her vintage car. But when settled down for extended scenes with real actors , like Sam Elliott as an old flame or Marcia Gay Harden as her powerhouse all-business daughter (she’s the girl’s mother), Tomlin’s sketch-based/multi-character background training leaves her at a huge disadvantage. She all but disappears, along with the goodwill Weitz is counting on to make this work.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *We're slapping a Family Friendly label on this precisely because the film gives such a fair, non-judgmental look at the sort of routine abortion practice no one bothers to dramatize in commercial American movies these days.

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