The grandparent-grandchild connection is invariably one that fuels hopes for the future, as age embraces optimistic and expansive youth. But the past is often a demanding guest in this generational interplay, generating a flood of memories of watershed moments in the older person. This phenomenon is at the core of Grandma, where an idiosyncratic and gutsy elder female becomes an emergency problem solver on behalf of her teenage granddaughter, and dredges up her own personal history in the process.
Written and directed by Paul Weitz, the movie, set in Los Angeles, wastes no time introducing its titular grandma, Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin). Elle is a septuagenarian gay woman, poet and former academician who’s breaking up a four-month relationship with her much younger love interest, Olivia (Judy Greer). Elle’s beloved partner of nearly two decades, Violet, has been dead for a little over a year, and that couple’s encyclopedic longevity fuels Elle to venomously tell Olivia, “You’re a footnote.” Harsh.
With her heart in the past and immersed in memories – both activities are ruled by the Moon – Elle has been surviving in Lunar mode. But the Moon also rules children, and who should come knocking to jostle Elle out of her malaise than her pregnant teen granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner), who needs money for an abortion that’s she’s already scheduled. Double whammy, with a deadline.
Elle’s having no access to funds – she prudently cut up her credit cards after paying off her debts – all but mandates that these two women embark on a road trip to hit some people up for money. What transpires progressively zeroes in on that intersection between present and past, and even suggests a more shiny future. Those people receiving visits from the duo are Sage’s irresponsible boyfriend (Nat Wolff); the owner (the late Elizabeth Pena) of a feminist coffee shop; and a rugged male contemporary (Sam Elliott), with whom Elle has a feisty yet moving interaction. There’s also Elle’s middle-aged daughter (Marcia Gay Harden) – Sage’s mom – and these first- and second-generation femmes haven’t had much to say to each other for quite a while.
With the clock ticking, the activity in Grandma bears witness to the fact that the stuff of goddesses is often shockingly mundane, affectionate and full of bombast. This is a chick flick, and then some.
Archetypes: Mother. Daughter. Lover. Child.
Astrology Archetype: ☽ (Moon)