Grandma is one of my favorite movies of the year.
The plot is straightforward – a teenage girl asks her grandmother for money to get an abortion, and they spend the day trying to pull the funds together – but the relationships among all of the characters are anything but that.
I’ve heard some people say Lilly Tomlin’s character Elle is too profane and too unpleasant at times. I see her as complicated and authentic. (I seriously doubt they make the same comments about Jack Nicholson if you get my point.)
I’m sure other people find the story’s political elements offensive. (There’s no getting around the movie’s unabashed support of abortion rights and absolute acceptance of lesbian relationships and gay families.)
I can’t argue those two points for people with different beliefs than mine because I don’t see Grandma through those lenses. The elements that push away those viewers draw me into the film.
Another comment I have heard is one that I must contest; some people believe the film lacks substance, and I couldn’t disagree more.
Clocking in at a brisk 80 minutes – I wish there were more films produced and released at this length – the film offers a lot of convention-breaking elements in a deceptively simple package. In this way, it reminds me of another movie that makes the case for reproductive rights while functioning as a revisionist romantic comedy, Obvious Child.
While the abortion that marks a major plot point in both is the obvious (yes, couldn’t resist) connection between the two films, realistic aesthetic choices and radical narrative elements offer other links.
For me, Grandma’s most radical element is not one I’ve heard others talk about: this is the only time I’ve seen an abortion used as a narrative device to bring a multi-generational family together and heal wounds accumulated across decades.
In the context of this particular story, it certainly works.