Paul Weitz can’t and won’t be pigeonholed, as writer or
director. His credits range from American
Pie and Nutty Professor II: The
Klumps to About a Boy and In Good Company. His latest effort
debuted to great response earlier this year at South by Southwest, an ideal showcase
for this indie drama. Grandma offers
Lily Tomlin a juicy leading role and audiences a satisfying experience on a
What really makes it work is Weitz’s attention to detail in delineating his
characters and his keen eye for casting. Every part matters to him; even actors
who have just a few lines manage to leave an impression, among them Laverne Cox
and the late Elizabeth Peña.
Julia Garner plays a teenager who shows up at her
grandmother’s house one morning in need of money for an abortion that she’s already
scheduled for that afternoon. Unwilling to face her uptight mother, she turns
instead to Tomlin, a progressive woman who is mourning the loss of her longtime
partner. The story unfolds over the course of that eventful day. Tomlin’s
character is strident and off-putting at times, but as the film progresses we
come to understand the events that have shaped her over many years’ time. With
understanding comes empathy.
I don’t know if Weitz wrote his screenplay with Lily Tomlin
in mind, but it’s a perfect fit. Surrounded by talented costars including Judy
Greer, Marcia Gay Harden, and in one heartbreaking scene, Sam Elliott. Tomlin makes
the most of this opportunity. Grandma
may be a small movie but it’s a good one.