Lily Tomlin in ‘Grandma’ represents a true Best Actress contender

Lily Tomlin Grandma

HOLLYWOOD CONTENDERS: The fall movie season is almost upon us folks, but that doesn’t mean that the late summer isn’t without its potential awards bait. I’ve been hinting about how great a film called Grandma is, and now that it’s beginning its theatrical run this weekend after a trip around the festival circuit, I can really get into the merits of this one. In particular, the candidacies of Lily Tomlin in Best Actress and Sam Elliot in Best Supporting Actor are really worth taking note of. They turn in two of the very best performances of the year so far, helping to make this one of the most memorable 2015 release that I’ve seen to date.

The film is the story of a granddaughter and a grandmother. The former is Sage (Kelli Garner), a moody teen who comes to the latter, Elle Reid (Tomlin), when she discovers that she’s pregnant. Sage is worried that her mother Judy (Marcia Gay Harden) would yell at her, so she wants grandma Elle to pay for her abortion. Elle is broke though, and having recently cut up her credit cards, they begin a day long journey to find the money and make sure Sage is helped. It might sound like a serious drama, but while this is very touching and a tear jerker at times, it’s also laugh out loud funny. Paul Weitz writes and directs, while the cast in addition to Garner, Harden, and Tomlin includes the aforementioned Elliot as well as Laverne Cox, Judy Greer, and Nat Wolff, just to name a few.

Part of the reason that Grandma is so great is the acting on display, particularly from Elliot and Tomlin. Garner, Greer, and Harden are very good as well, but Elliot and Tomlin give two of the ten best performances of 2015 so far. Elliot has one long scene as someone from Elle’s past and he hits an absolute home run. It’s the supporting performance of the year right now to me. I’m not sure he’ll catch on, but if he does, a Best Supporting Actor nomination would be more than worthy. As for Tomlin, this is the best work she’s ever done, which is really saying something. Some of her third act scenes are shockingly powerful. Not only is she a legitimate contender for a Best Actress nomination, with the right campaign she could even be a threat to win. Stay tuned there…

Speaking of awards, this has a chance to do decently well during the precursor season. If it hits, you could see Oscar campaigns for Best Picture, Best Director (for Weitz), Best Actress (for Tomlin), Best Supporting Actor (for Elliot), Best Supporting Actress (for Garner, Greer, or Harden), and Best Original Screenplay (for Weitz as well). Actress, Supporting Actor, and Original Screenplay are the places to focus on, with Tomlin’s Actress nomination and Elliot’s Supporting Actor nomination potentially being hand in hand situations. The movie might be too small to really go the distance, but it fully deserves the campaign that it’s surely going to receive.

It’ll be a few months before we truly see if Grandma has the goods, but this week audiences can finally see what I’ve been raving about for some time. I can vouch for it being absolutely incredible, but you’ll understand exactly how in just a few days. Weitz’s writing and direction are the best of his career, while Elliot and Tomlin will break/warm your heart. It’s just top notch all around. Provided it’s not ignored by audiences and makes some kind of showing on the precursor circuit, there’s no reason for this not to be heavily considered in a few places by the Academy. Time will tell what happens, but this is one not to miss folks…

Be sure to check out Grandma, which begins its theatrical run on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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