Inside Out 2015: Grandma
The Inside Out Film Festival has returned this year for its 25th Anniversary and is bigger than ever. Starting out with humble beginnings in 1991, with no sponsors and just a small dedicated community that sought to fill a need, the 10 day event has grown into one of the largest LGBT film festivals in the world. What better way to kick off the festivities than with Paul Weitz’s new film Grandma, a wonderfully touching and bittersweet, and at times uproariously funny, story of growing up, letting go of past mistakes, and letting yourself grieve for the ones you’ve lost.
Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), a once-famed poet, has recently lost her partner Violet of nearly 40 years. In an attempt to move forward she entered into a relationship with a much younger woman named Olivia (Judy Greer) who charmed her with intelligence and revived interest in life. At the same time that the relationship is coming to an abrupt end, Elle’s teenaged granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up asking for money. Sage is pregnant and is asking her grandmother for help getting an abortion. Elle is broke but agrees to help her anyway and concocts a plan to track down the father of the child and call in favours from her past. Fearing the reaction of her mother Judy (Marcia Gay Harden in a brief, yet scene-stealing role), Sage is desperate to find any way to get the money. What results is a hilarious road trip across the city that forces Sage to realize that she must deal with her situation with maturity beyond her years and causes Elle to face the sins of her past and resolve resentments that long ago burned the bridges around her.
Without a doubt the legendary Lily Tomlin is the star of this film. Her powerhouse acting, with her trademark wit and sarcasm, breathes energy into Elle that makes you can’t help but feel this is a woman who will fight for you. She has been through confusion, heartache, loss, and much more resulting in a woman in her 70’s that can cut right through the nonsense and attitude anyone tries to deal her. She doesn’t care if she causes a scene or who likes her, she is going to voice her opinion. This creates an amazingly likeable character that the audience falls in love with.
The cast of supporting characters in the film, although often brief, each lend a unique voice to the story. They represent many facets of a storied life that Elle now unexpectedly has to reconcile with. These characters force her to realize what she had been hanging on to for decades and with that understanding, Elle is then able to realize that she’s stronger than she thought and is able to finally begin to emotionally deal with the loss of her long-time love.
Weitz has crafted an intimate film that is much more than just a story of a young girl who needs help getting an abortion. That becomes secondary here. On a grander scale, it’s about living life, dealing with loss, and learning from those around you how to change for the better. This is a relatable film that connects with the viewer on many levels, forcing a personal reflection on whether a life has been well-lived and yet still remembering to look ahead towards life’s surprises still to come. It would not be surprising to see Tomlin earning recognition for her performance in this film, it’s some of her best work.
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