Lily Tomlin has been working mostly in the medium of television for years, quietly drawing acclaim for her roles on shows like Damages, Desperate Housewives and Web Therapy, and recently co-starring with Jane Fonda in Netflix’s well publicized Grace & Frankie. She returns to the indie credibility spotlight in Paul Weitz’ new film Grandma, starring alongside Julia Garner (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Marcia Gay Harden (Fifty Shade of Grey, Miller’s Crossing).
The film tells the story of meek and unassuming Sage (Garner), a teen who finds herself pregnant and alone and who must turn to her acerbic grandmother Elle (Tomlin) for help and guidance. The two spend a life-changing day together as Sage learns how to handle the future, while Elle learns to cope with her past. The cast is rounded out by indie mainstay Judy Greer (Jurassic World, Archer), Sam Elliott (The Big Lebowski, Justified) and Nat Wolff (The Fault in Our Stars).
The Grandma trailer finds Tomlin in comfortable territory, playing a hard-edged character with a soft sense of humanity while Garner seems to approach the ‘sweet, hapless teen-in-trouble’ indie film trope with ease. Weitz’ direction looks suitably intimate and ground-level, while his script seems to offer the proper amount of witticism-amidst-genuine-pathos (a la Juno) for a movie that asks us to acknowledge a grounded reality – while also featuring an outrageous old lady, hitting a dude in the nuts with a hockey stick.
Weitz is no stranger to stories about lonely people becoming better versions of themselves through interactions with young people. His 2002 Nick Hornby adaptation About a Boy (co-directed with his brother, Chris Weitz) did just that to much applause; he even brought a sense of relatability to his first directing venture, American Pie (also co-directed with his brother), a teen sex comedy with some real humanity. Weitz directed both Tomlin and Wolff once before in his 2013 dramedy Admission, which isn’t as widely-admired as his other work (but has its defenders).
While this type of sweet tale of human connection can turn very saccharine very quickly, Weitz has a good eye for straddling that line, especially when he is directing his own script (see: 2004’s In Good Company, starring Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid), his past missteps aside (see: his American culture satire American Dreamz). Grandma has already picked up praise from its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival – with Variety‘s Scott Foundas praising the movie as a “constantly surprising character piece,” while THR‘s David Rooney says that Grandma is “a sublime match of performer [in Tomlin] and role.”
Grandma opens in select U.S. theaters on August 21st, 2015.
Source: Sony Pictures Classics