‘Blended Opinion’ will now be doing periodic double-feature reviews with scores and short reviews to consolidate Indie film coverage.
Lily Tomlin has gotten a bit of Oscar buzz in her charming turn as a nasty, gay grandmother in Grandma an uplifting dramedy about the relationship between a teen in peril (Julia Garner) and her world-weary grandmother (Tomlin).
When Sage (Garner) shows up at her grandmother’s house asking for 600 dollars for an abortion, it’s not a surprise that the aggressively liberal and unfiltered Tomlin is all about helping her on this journey, determined to prove that she can be a caring grandma despite not being there for her daughter and Sage’s mom Judy (Marcia Gay Harden).
The problem, however, is that grandma is broke, using the last of her savings to pay off outstanding medical debt from when her partner passed away a few years back. Although she is currently dating Olivia (Judy Greer), most of her hasn’t completely healed after the death, and seeing her granddaughter gives her a happiness that she’s not accustomed to. Small bit parts are played by notable faces like Sam Elliot, Laverne Cox, John Cho, and Nat Wolff.
The road-trip element becomes the main focus, as two very different generations but very similar people try to go to old friends and get the money necessary to help Sage out. The hope is to avoid telling Mom, because we know how mad moms get about abortions.
It’s directed by comedic director Paul Weitz, and although he hasn’t had a good film in awhile, Grandma is the best he’s done. This is a comedy with a huge heart, and the nasty, cynical, but fearlessly loyal turn by Lily Tomlin as a complicated lead character really is one of the best performances of the year.
Time Out of Mind is not as much of a fun romp as Grandma. In a very self-serious film, Richard Gere plays George, a homeless man who wonders the streets night and day looking for a warm place to sleep and a way to buy more alcohol to help him do the same. He has a daughter, played by Jena Malone, who avoids him, and its obvious that George is not in his right mind most of the time.
Much of the film is shot through a filter of some sort, a window or a shadow or a passing bystander, almost to illustrate how inconsequential many view the homeless. Even though Gere is our protagonist, and we want to see his face on screen, he’s often made the background, just living his life without a purpose in the periphery of everyone’s view. A line exists between him and a fellow homeless man whom he befriends (Ben Vereen) where without documentation of any kind, it’s as if he doesn’t exist. The separation of his personality, part of him too prideful to accept being homeless, the other part of him aching for help, is what makes Vereen’s character so important. Much of this is imagined, and a pivotal scene at a piano proves how mentally ill Gere’s character really is, imagining much of what goes on. This film requires patience and crawls along at a snails pace, but with some nuanced viewing, there’s a lot of payoff here, and the film is extremely moving. That doesn’t make it fun to watch. At all.
Grandma is funny, touching and topical, and Lily Tomlin anchors this film.
Time Out of Mind requires patience and an open mind, but it’s a moving portrayal of someone in desperate need.