The paucity of roles for older women in Hollywood is proverbial.
A rare exception is the witty, unsentimental film, “Grandma,” written and directed by Paul Weitz. It is splendid to see Lily Tomlin, the stand-up comic and award-winning actress, in a dazzlingly authentic role at the age of 76.
Tomlin is believably acerbic and vulnerable as Elle, a lesbian poet at an emotional crossroads. She desperately misses Violet, her partner of 40 years, who died a year and a half ago; breaks up with her girlfriend, Olivia, a brilliant young Ph.D. dropout (Judy Greer); and then her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), shows up needing an abortion. Elle does not have the money. She recently paid off her debts of $27,000 and made a mobile of her cut-up credit cards.
So how can they get the $600 for Sage’s appointment later that day? Elle wildly believes she can get thousands of dollars for first editions of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (signed), Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, and Simone de Beauvoir’s Coming of Age.
Naturally, Sage has never heard of these books. And Elle is more upset about Sage’s cluelessness about feminism than the low price of The Feminine Mystique ($60) on eBay.
They travel around town in Elle’s vintage Dodge, trying to borrow the money from Elle’s friends. Elle renews her bond with a transgender tattoo artist (Laverne Cox), but alienates the rest. She screams at Carla (Elizabeth Peña), owner of a feminist cafe, when she offers only $60 for the books. Carla leaps over the counter to throw her out.
I loved the scenes with Oscar-winning Marcia Gay Hardin, who plays Elle’s daughter, Judy, a hard bitch businesswoman who had Sage by sperm donor.
I’m really blogging because of the bookish connections—first editions aren’t worth what they used to be because of the internet –but I loved this affecting, unsentimental movie.