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A Lesson in Egg Sucking

Sony Pictures Classics

Grandma (2015)

Stereotypes are inherently unfair, but they have a way of perpetuating themselves because of the few people who fit them to a T. The angry lesbian was only a thing within gay circles until the one-time Queen of Nice, Rosie O’Donnell, stopped being polite and started getting real following her very public coming out. Given the double dose of homophobia and sexism, the anger is certainly justifiable — it is just sometimes misdirected at allies instead of those who deserve it.

“Grandma” is a film about one such angry lesbian: a rude curmudgeon whose poetry anthologies were taught in women’s studies courses. But she’s not your typical man-hater: She's an equal-opportunity hater. In the opening scene, Elle (Lily Tomlin) inexplicably kicks her starry-eyed much-younger lover, Olivia (Judy Greer), to the curb; curtailing their May-December romance after just four measly months.

Then Elle’s granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), unexpectedly shows up seeking a handout to finance that afternoon’s appointment at an abortion clinic. Short on cash herself, Elle takes Sage on a grand tour paying visits to drifted-apart friends and estranged loved ones to muster funds for the procedure.

Along the way, Elle must confront some of her past mistakes. For instance, she’s reared her daughter, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), to be a difficult person whose wrath both Sage and Elle fear such that they’d rather exhaust their other options and consider Judy only as a last resort. Elle also tries to tentatively reconcile with Karl (Sam Elliott), her ex-husband whom she married amid sexual-orientation confusion and then abruptly jilted.

Writer-director Paul Weitz is particularly adept at this kind of heartstring-tugging arrested-development material, having previously tackled the likes of “About a Boy” and “In Good Company.” Aided by a larger-than-life performance from Ms. Tomlin, he reveals the complex layers beneath the dour exterior of a maligned archetype. There’s tough love beneath all that anger, cynicism and fatalism after all. Whether Elle’s life lesson will incite any introspection among the lesbian community remains to be seen.


Opens on Aug. 21 in New York and Los Angeles and on Dec. 11 in Britain.

Written and directed by Paul Weitz; director of photography, Tobias Datum; edited by Jonathan Corn; music by Joel P. West; production design by Cindy Chao and Michele Yu; produced by Mr. Weitz, Andrew Miano, Terry Dougas and Paris Latsis; released by Sony Pictures Classics. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Lily Tomlin (Elle), Julia Garner (Sage), Marcia Gay Harden (Judy), Judy Greer (Olivia), Laverne Cox (Deathy), Sam Elliott (Karl), Nat Wolff (Cam) and John Cho (Chau).


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