Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lily Tomlin as Good Grandma Ganja

Lily Tomlin chillin' with silver fox Sam Elliott in Grandma
Almost as surprising as when I expected "Private Benjamin Goes to Kabul" from Tina Fey and instead got the excellent Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I finally watched Grandma (2015) with Lily Tomlin, and it's the best movie I've seen in a while.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Lily fan. I laughed at her in "Laugh-In," and can
still recite much of the "Sister Boogie Woman" bit from her Modern Scream album (on which she tells a great pot joke). And I saw her emerge as an actress in that
single, unforgettable scene in Nashville where she listens to Keith Carradine singing "I'm Easy."

I think I was afraid Tomlin's Grandma would be a little too much like her character in Netflix's "Grace and Frankie," where she's ridiculed and made to look ridiculous by the alcoholic Jane Fonda character. But no, in Grandma, Lily as the feminist poetess Elle is back in all her power, signified by the "Violet" tattoo she wears on her arm (the name of the character she played in 9-5, wherein she smoked pot with Jane).

Nat Wolff (Stuck in Love, Peace Love and 
Misunderstandingproves no match for Grandma
This Grandma isn't just there for her kids: she's living her own life, falling in love (with Judy Greer as Olivia), and dealing with her anger issues and her past, even while confronting her granddaughter's crisis pregnancy. Elle is still alive and kicking, like when she takes down her granddaughter's asshole boyfriend, who wears a huge pot leaf on his hockey jersey. Afterwards, she steals his stash.

Elle makes good use of her find in the next scene with Sam Elliot: two old friends (and flames) who share a joint for old times' sake. It's a great scene, as are the ones Tomlin plays with Greer and Marcia Gay Harden as her equally angry, caffeine-chugging daughter.

There's no discussion about pot with the granddaughter (as there was with Lily
and her son in 9-5). It's just a part of Elle's life, and not something that rules or defines her.

With appearances by John Cho (Harold and Kumar), Lauren Tom (Joy Luck Club), Missy Doty (Shameless), and Judy Geeson (To Sir with Love),  the film even has a bit of a poem by Tokin' Woman Anne Waldman, plus a final appearance by Elizabeth Peña (La Bamba), who died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 55 in 2014. (One more reason to be more like Frankie than Grace.)

Grandma was filmed in 19 days at a cost $600,000, and made $8.7 million. The film was named among the top ten independent films of 2015 by the National Board of Review, and Tomlin was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance.

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