“Grandma” (2015) a Lovely Character Study

Despite his involvement in films ranging from American Pie to About a Boy, very little could prepare viewers for the glorious relationship dramedy that writer/director Paul Weitz has delivered with Grandma (A-), which frankly feels like an indie from a first-time visionary. Lily Tomlin gives a career-best performance as Elle, a free-spirited misanthrope and widow of a female partner, recruited by her granddaughter Sage (an affecting Julia Garner) to help raise money to end an unwanted pregnancy. The subject is treated sensitively, and the resulting road trip brings a village of perspectives ranging from a man from Elle’s past (a delightful Sam Elliott) to her high-strung estranged daughter (the always pitch-perfect Marcia Gay Harden). Despite the heaviness of the central conflict, it’s Tomlin’s lived-in performance filled with pluck and hard-knocks wisdom that helps the film soar. She also gets the best anger sequence in an eating establishment since Five Easy Pieces. Ultimately a very feminist film from a male director, it’s a fine showcase of outstanding multi-generational actresses and a sentimental and sweet story of unexpected family dynamics.