‘Grandma’ has the best break-up line of any movie – a total burn: ‘You’re nothing, you’re just a footnote.’ That’s Lily Tomlin playing Elle, a grouchy poet who can reduce people to rubble with her putdowns. Elle’s wife died a couple of years ago and she’s just dumped her younger girlfriend when her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) knocks on the door needing money for an abortion. Trouble is, Elle’s flat broke.
So the two take a drive in Elle’s cool vintage car to round up $600. First stop is Sage’s loser boyfriend. When he lamely cops out of paying – ‘How do I even know it’s mine?’ – Elle attacks him with a hockey stick and steals his weed. If ever there was a three-and-a-half-star film, this comedy is it. The story is a little thin and you can wait minutes for a joke to turn up, while Elle’s daughter/Sage’s mum is a complete cliché: a control-freak corporate lawyer who yells at her PA.
But there’s also a lot to love. Hollywood is famously squeamish about abortion (in ‘Knocked Up’, Seth Rogen’s character can’t even say it out loud – talking about a ‘shmashmortion’). ‘Grandma’ is more level-headed than that – and closer to reality: around one in three American women has an abortion before the age of 45. Above all, Lily Tomlin is a joy: salty-sweet, running the gamut from howlingly funny to dab-your-eyes moving.