Film Reviews

SO IT GOES – <i>Grandma</i> (2015)

SO IT GOES – Grandma (2015)

Sarah Gough-Piazza

October 13th, 2015


Based on Grandma’s title, I expected a feel-good family drama about the rekindling of a relationship between a grandchild and their grandmother. In no way was I expecting to see the grandmother in question kick the crap out of a teenage boy with a hockey stick, smoke a joint, or cuss like a sailor. Grandma was a wonderful surprise.

Written and directed by Paul Weitz, Grandma tells the story of Sage (Julia Garner), a teenage girl who must go to her estranged and erratic grandmother, Elle (Lily Tomlin), to get money for an abortion. Unable to come up with the cash, Elle takes Sage on a quest, asking Elle’s old friends and flames for money. Through these interactions, Sage is able to see a new side of her grandmother, as well as her grandmother’s past, which ends up helping her deal with the inner conflicts she is facing regarding the circumstances surrounding her abortion.

Throughout the film, the relationship between Elle and Sage never changes. From the beginning, it becomes obvious that Elle loves her granddaughter just as much as Sage loves her grandmother. This lack of evolution in feeling was absolutely wonderful. Normally, the need for a drastic polar opposite change of emotion is the go-to for a movie about the building relationship between family. This made their relationship feel more realistic, not one that was forced, but one that was earned. The colorful language and attitude of Elle contrasted well with the teenage angst and drama from Sage’s character. Both Sage and Elle seemed like equals, totally eliminating the “elder” superiority, but rather allowing them to act more like friends, a relationship with no judgement or hierarchy along with witty one-liners and honest expression of emotions from both sides. As the movie progressed, I felt that I was actually watching family members interact, not just two random actresses.

The audience goes down the same journey as Sage does, learning about her grandmother’s past. This makes the movie a sort of scavenger hunt, a surprise around every corner, especially given its all-star cast of supporting characters, including Sam Elliott, Judy Greer, and Laverne Cox. It’s easy to recognize these famous faces, but their presence doesn’t detract from the story of Elle and Sage. They’re credible in mundane roles because Sage and Elle remain so strong and constant. These characters are nothing more than stories, as if Sage as well as the audience are getting small samples of Elle, whether it be about her past or reasonings for her eccentric behavior. The film starts to focus less on the task at hand (getting money for the abortion) and more a way in which Sage gets to see the inner workings of her grandmother and being able to use that knowledge to reflect on her current situations. This is not a small task. Everything about Sage and Elle along with their relationship is relatable, no matter the age of the audience, and that is something that is difficult to do.

Grandmother is something special. It is one of those films that makes you think, makes you question, as well as just being an enjoyable story to watch on the big screen. The portrayal of the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is so honest and real, and the acting never seems forced. Although it may not appeal to all audiences due to the controversy surrounding abortion, Grandma is a truly superb film experience about the inner workings of a relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter.

Grandma continues its run at the Bijou Art Cinemas. Click here for showtimes.

Sarah Gough-Piazza is a senior at the University of Oregon studying comparative literature with a concentration in German and creative writing. She spends her time obsessively browsing YouTube and Tumblr, and has come to the conclusion that she likes dogs more than humans. So It Goes is an irregular column in which she provides critical analyses of films screening locally.

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