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Grandma (2015)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/9/2016

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/4/2016

When it comes to choosing a movie, I'm the kind of person who scours the credits for the names of the writers and directors. I'm more interested in the talent behind the camera, as this can often give me a good idea of what the film will be like and if it's my cup of tea. (A beverage which I, unfortunately, can no longer drink.) But, I realize that most Americans are still drawn to the cinema based on the actors in the movie. I've got nothing against actors, although there are certainly those which I don't like, but they rarely make or break a movie for me. However, there are a select few who you know will carry a film and make it worth checking out. A great example is the Lily Tomlin vehicle, Grandma.

Tomlin stars in Grandma as Elle, an academic and poet who sees herself as being past her prime. As the film opens, Elle is breaking up with her girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer), in a very dramatic scene. Not long after Olivia leaves, Sage (Julia Garner), Elle's granddaughter, arrives. Sage is pregnant and has made the appointment to get an abortion, but needs money to cover the costs. Elle has recently decided to get herself out of debt, but, due to this mission, she has no cash on hand. So, the two begin a day-long adventure where they will visit Sage's ne'er-do-well boyfriend (Nat Wolff), a tattoo artist (Lavrene Cox), an old friend (Elizabeth Pena), and a old secret (I won't spoil it), in search of the money. Along the way, Elle and Sage will bond and Elle will begin to confront the fact that she hasn't truly gotten over the death of her life-partner.

According to IMDB.com, Writer/Director Paul Weitz wrote Grandma for Lily Tomlin. Even if this isn't true, I can see a producer saying, "Who can we get to play an older women who is both smart and a smart-ass and would have first-hand knowledge on what it's like to be a lesbian?" I'm pretty sure that Lily Tomlin would be the immediate response, as she truly shines in this role and it's very easy to see the movie as a love-letter to Tomlin. We have no trouble at all believing her as this woman who is constantly frustrated by the ignorance and pettiness with which she is constantly confronted. She only wants to help her granddaughter, but there are obstacles at every turn and this causes her to let down what are clearly carefully structured social barriers she has erected. There is also her professional side. Elle was once a -- at least semi -- well-known poet, who still appears in anthologies, but her best years are behind her and as much as she hates stupid people, she really hates those who bring up her past.

The film is also a love-letter to love and relationships. It's pretty clear from the outset that Elle and Sage don't have the strongest of bonds, but Sage had nowhere else to turn, as she could not go to her own mother. This is of no help to Elle, as she and her daughter, Sage's mother, aren't on speaking terms. As Elle and Sage travel the city, we see that this is a very emotional journey for Sage, as she is dealing with the embarrassment of being pregnant at such a young age and the difficult decision of getting an abortion. But, the trip is even more emotional for Elle. For starters, they travel in a car which belonged to Elle's deceased lover, which stirs up her feelings. From there, Elle moves through anger at Sage's boyfriend, resentment at her friend, and a mixture of pain, sorrow, and regret at her secret from the past. Sage witnesses this catharsis and realizes that, warts aside, she has a good role model in her grandmother. This also forces Elle to take a step back and look at her life, both past and present.

Reportedly made for just $600,000 (Lily Tomlin supplied the car, so we're already saving money!) and lasting only 78-minutes, Grandma is the kind of small Hollywood movie which we rarely see. Weitz packs the film with recognizable faces and the acting is top-notch across the board. Weitz has come a long way since American Pie and this is arguably his best film since About a Boy. I typically don't bring up any hot-button or political views when I discuss movies, but if you are staunchly pro-life, you may want to stay away from Grandma. Otherwise, you'll find a short, sweet film which explores inter-generational bonds and features a Golden Globe nominated performance from Lily Tomlin.

Grandma gets incredibly sassy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an ACV 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing grain to speak of and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable, as we can see the lines in the actors faces in close-ups, and the depth works well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.1 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dramedy, we don't get a lot of system-demo level effects here, but the dialogue is always audible, and there are effective stereo effects in exterior scenes.

The Grandma Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Paul Weitz, Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliot and Julia Garner. "A Family Portrait: Making Grandma" (25 minutes) contains comments from Weitz and the cast who discuss their passion for the project, as well as the story and characters. From there, we get an overview of each of the main characters. And while there are on-set stills, there is oddly no on-set footage. The "Q&A with Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliot, and Paul Weitz" (21 minutes) took place after an unspecified screening where the trio field various questions about the film. The final extra is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long