Sunday, September 27, 2015

Grandma (2015)

I guess calling it "Bad Grandma" would have been a little too obvious, and just a bit hackish. Actually, I wouldn't call her bad as much as I would call her surly. I'm sure we all know the cranky, outspoken grandparent, only it's funny to watch when they aren't yours. I'm already surly and cranky now, so I can only imagine how I'll be 30 years from now. There's a part of me that looks forward to the day when I stop giving a shit and just say whatever the hell I want.

Grandma is a good example of limited story telling. The film plays out over just a single day, but you get everything you need to know from the dialog and interaction. They don't waste time with pointless exposition or explaining all the relationships. It's all there on the screen if you pay attention (and it's not like it's hard to figure out). Depending on your political or religious views, the ultimate goal of this film might upset some of you, but I didn't have an issue with it. I wouldn't get hung up on that though, as the movie is funny and light.

Despite being a limited story, they don't rush things and the relatively short running time is tight and effective. It's refreshing to see a movie that doesn't pad it's runtime. Just put what what needs to be in the film, and if it ends up being just 88 minutes, then so be it. I wish more filmmakers would realize this. Grandma is the kind of movie where at the end, I wouldn't have minded seeing another ten minutes or so. I enjoyed watching the characters and how it all played out.

Lily Tomlin is great, and I'm already hearing Oscar buzz around her performance. I almost forgot we are approaching Oscar-bait season, but this isn't as in your face as maybe other offerings around this time of the year are. Tomlin really is fun to watch, and not just because of her general attitude. There's a wisdom there, but doesn't hammer you over the head with it. I also enjoyed an engaging performance from Julia Garner. She's a relative newcomer, but she has such a distinctive look that she's hard not to notice even in limited screentime. I can see her becoming the next indie queen and seems a likely candidate for playing the manic pixie dream girl type. Marcia Gay Harden is also great. They do an interesting thing with her character where they build her up, and you think she's going to be someone you're going to hate, but when you're finally introduced to her, she comes off as the most sympathetic and relatable. In a weaker movie she would have been a caricature of an overbearing mother. All of the characters in Grandma are more complex than on the surface and aren't perfect people. You know, like in reality.

Grandma is a funny, well-written and heartfelt character story that's driven by an Oscar worthy performance from Lily Tomlin. Since this is smaller release, most won't be able to see this in the theaters, but it's definitely worth checking out.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

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