We’ve entered the dog days of summer, in which all the cool movies were released weeks ago, and we’re stuck with the movies consigned to the cinematic trash heap. This week’s big releases, “American Ultra” and “Hitman: Agent 47”, were barely even shown to critics, if at all.
But sneaking into the bottom of the pile is one movie, “Grandma”, that most critics seem to like – with 80 percent approval according to Rotten Tomatoes, a site that collects dozens of the nation’s critics’ reviews. Don’t believe the hype on this one, though, as it’s the most vile movie to come down the pike in years. Maybe ever. And I’ve seen a lot of movies, folks.
This isn’t so much a movie, as it is an 80-minute piece of pro-abortion propaganda that Planned Parenthood itself couldn’t have made more offensive.
The plot is simple, as a nasty, foul-mouthed small-town lesbian grandma (one of those oppressed small-town women who had to hide their true nature and get married before America came to its senses, of course) named Elle (Lily Tomlin) finds that her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) has become pregnant and wants an abortion that she has no funds for. Over the course of a day, we follow Elle as she takes Sage on a string of ugly visits to friends and family in search of raising the $600 needed for the abortion.
The two confront the father of the child, Sage’s worthless boyfriend (Nat Wolff); an old boyfriend of Elle’s (Sam Elliott); a transsexual hairdresser friend of Elle’s (Laverne Cox) who says Elle helped her with something in the past that’s implied to be morally illicit; Elle’s much-younger ex-girlfriend (Judy Greer) and finally Elle’s daughter (Marcia Gay Harden), whom she convinces to pay for the remaining portion of Sage’s abortion fee.
In other words, it’s just a sweet little slice of small-town American life. Or rather, how Hollywood likes to imagine small-town America, while actually scoffing at it from their elite West Coast perches.
Throughout, the subject matter is utterly offensive and the characters are shrill, profane, unlikeable loudmouths, with no one winning over any sane viewer’s heart. Writer-director Paul Weitz co-directed the morally abominable “American Pie” and sinks to even lower depths here, which is a shame because he’s also proven capable of making wonderfully heartfelt movies like “About A Boy.”
It’s a shame that Lily Tomlin, who in the 1970s and ‘80s was a comic genius, seems committed to advancing as thoroughly twisted a message as possible into her work as she fades out into the twilight of her years. A lesbian herself, who married her longtime partner in 2013, Tomlin has also managed to draw critical praise in recent months as the co-star (with Jane Fonda, go figure) of “Frankie & Grace,” a Netflix sitcom about two senior citizen females who discover their longtime husbands have been carrying on an affair together for decades.
Shame on Martin Sheen for taking on the role of one of those husbands and making light of what has to be a devastating situation for the thankfully rare women who go through it in real life. But the critics loved that show too, proving that there’s no message too weird and immoral to gain praise from the mainstream media.
But “Grandma” is a truly curious case, a movie in which even if you think Tomlin’s character is doing a great thing, has a tone-deaf ear for what’s funny and what’s just histrionic anger. Be thankful for the fact that its studio is only putting it out in a small release that’s unlikely to expand far into the Middle American towns it claims to respect but in actuality despises.
Let’s be clear; “Grandma” isn’t worthy viewing on a date, or for anyone, anytime. And if your love interest is really pushing to see a movie about a geriatric lesbian screaming at people about paying for an abortion, you might want to reconsider the entire relationship altogether.
Utterly lacking in redeeming values, “Grandma” is unpleasant to sit through from start to finish. It’s too bad its funders didn’t terminate the production funding instead.