Lily Tomlin works miracles. She’s comedy royalty whose best films (Nashville, The Late Show, All of Me, I Heart Huckabees) always cut deeper than a smile. But no Oscar. Maybe Grandma will do the trick. It’s a Tomlin tour de force.
Don’t get any ideas that Tomlin, 75, is playing some sweet old dearie fighting senility or terminal illness. Writer-director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) plays to her strengths. As Elle Reid, a celebrated poet with a mouth on her, Tomlin takes on the world like the hypocrisy pit it is. Her longtime lesbian lover has died, and she’s just shown the door to a new, younger version (Judy Greer). That’s when Elle’s teen granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), announces she’s pregnant.
The film, a scrappy delight, is a no-bull hunt for “a reasonably priced abortion,” bringing broke Grandma in contact with the baby daddy (Nat Wolff, a hoot), Sage’s mom (Marcia Gay Harden, wow) and Karl (a superb Sam Elliott), a love from Elle’s past. Each encounter opens up feelings that Elle can’t laugh off. Tomlin, the sorceress, leaves you dazzled and devastated.