Thursday, September 20, 2018
Things To Do

Review: In 'Grandma,' Lily Tomlin shines in her best role in years

Lily Tomlin crushes her best movie role in years in Grandma, playing her age (76) but not acting it in the least.

No other performance lately kept me smiling so broadly, watching a buried national treasure recoup relevance one impeccably performed scene at a time. Tomlin is a joy to watch, so much that one wonders why more chances like this haven't come along since her Oscar nominated debut in 1975's Nashville. Tomlin, also enjoying a comeback on the small screen, is up for a Lead Actress Emmy Sunday for her performance on the Netflix show Grace and Frankie.

Tomlin plays Elle Reid, a retired poet and fountain of scorn cruelly breaking up with a much younger girlfriend (Judy Greer) when the movie begins. Just a rebound fling after the death of Elle's longtime partner, a relationship that resulted in a daughter (Marcia Gay Harden), who is estranged and extremely uptight.

So uptight that her teenage daughter Sage (Julia Garner) can't tell her workaholic mother about her unexpected pregnancy. Sage wants an abortion but doesn't have $600, so she looks to grandma Elle for help. Broke herself, Elle begins hitting up people for loans or paybacks, most of them left behind on her unfriendly terms. Elle doesn't suffer fools, which is what she considers most of humanity. Except for Sage. But she was stupid for not using a condom.

Writer-director Paul Weitz (About a Boy) makes this one-city road trip movie into a prickly character study. Elle's depth of depression, fury and regret are defied by Tomlin's energetic portrayal of it, dripping with elderberry venom. Grandma is a very funny movie but mordantly so, with Tomlin gradually turning Elle's bitterness brittle.

Weitz's episodic scheme is a mixed blessing, offering what amounts to thankless cameos for some actors (John Cho, Laverne Cox, Nat Wolff) deserving more to do. On the other hand, Weitz crafts a terrific sequence involving Tomlin and silver fox Sam Elliott, a reunion of former lovers full of unexpected dialogue and reactions. Elliott has never been better on screen, and that's saying a lot.

Tomlin keeps the proceedings unpredictable, never letting on what's brewing behind those crinkly eyes and thin lips until it boils over. It's the sort of performance that saves movies. Grandma might not be worth visiting if not for her.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Lucero’s Ben Nichols talks Michael Shannon’s intensity, the band’s chances at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more

Lucero’s Ben Nichols talks Michael Shannon’s intensity, the band’s chances at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more

This is the 20th year of Lucero, the crusty, punk- and alt-country-accented Memphis rockers who've made many an enjoyable sojourn to Tampa Bay over the years. But don't go thinking it's made Ben Nichols newly nostalgic for his early work."It's funny,...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rae Sremmurd to headline USF Homecoming concert at Yuengling Center in Tampa

Rae Sremmurd to headline USF Homecoming concert at Yuengling Center in Tampa

The University of South Florida's homecoming week is just around the corner, and the school has just booked a nice headliner for its annual centerpiece concert.Chart-topping hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd will headline the annual USF Homecoming concert on ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lucero’s Ben Nichols talks about the band’s 20th anniversary, Michael Shannon’s intensity and more

Lucero’s Ben Nichols talks about the band’s 20th anniversary, Michael Shannon’s intensity and more

Ben Nichols is friendly with Michael Shannon. His brother, director Jeff Nichols, has cast Shannon in all five of his films. And the Oscar-nominated actor stars in a video — a short film, really — for Long Way Back Home, the new single by Nichols’ ro...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Reality bites: SeaWorld abandons virtual reality headsets on Kraken coaster

Reality bites: SeaWorld abandons virtual reality headsets on Kraken coaster

SeaWorld has ditched the experiment that made it the first major ride in Florida to incorporate virtual reality..Last June, the theme park announced with much fanfare a new feature that would project an undersea showdown on Kraken, incorporating VR h...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The making of a nightmare: Behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

The making of a nightmare: Behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

TAMPA — Once the scare actors were made up, they headed toward the haunted house to rehearse.But it wasn’t quite time for them to be scary yet. Busch Gardens, which opens its Howl-O-Scream Halloween scarefest on Friday, was still open for regular bus...
Published: 09/20/18
Gilda Radner is remembered in her own words in the documentary ‘Love, Gilda’

Gilda Radner is remembered in her own words in the documentary ‘Love, Gilda’

With the aid of rare audio recordings, the late Saturday Night Live comic force Gilda Radner narrates the story of her life in the new documentary Love, Gilda, opening Friday at Tampa Theatre.But it wasn’t easy initially for director Lisa D’Apolito t...
Published: 09/20/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Friday, Sept. 21

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Friday, Sept. 21

MegaCon Tampa Bay: The multi-genre convention opens today with a lineup of celebrity guests and comic book creators; hundreds of vendors selling art, toys and memorabilia. There will be a celebrity Q&A with Weasley twins from the Harry Potter films, ...
Published: 09/20/18
Visit 20 Tampa Bay museums for free (or nearly free) on Saturday

Visit 20 Tampa Bay museums for free (or nearly free) on Saturday

It’s that time when museums show the community some love by offering free admission on Saturday, like early Christmas for art lovers. Two events are the same day; Smithsonian magazine’s nationwide Free Museum Day and St. Petersburg’...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Plan your weekend: Howl-O-Scream opens, MegaCon, Lightning Fan Fest, ‘Game of Thrones’ concert, Free Museum Day

Plan your weekend: Howl-O-Scream opens, MegaCon, Lightning Fan Fest, ‘Game of Thrones’ concert, Free Museum Day

HorrorHowl-O-Scream: The annual scarefest at Busch Gardens opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday and runs select nights through Oct. 28. For its 19th year, the park has six haunted houses and six open-air intense scare zones. Hundreds of scare actors will jump o...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Dickey Betts in critical condition, facing brain surgery after ‘freak accident’ near Sarasota; upcoming concerts canceled

Dickey Betts in critical condition, facing brain surgery after ‘freak accident’ near Sarasota; upcoming concerts canceled

Months after returning to the stage after years of retirement, legendary Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts is "critical but stable" after a "freak accident" at his home in Sarasota County, according to his website.The site says Betts was ou...
Published: 09/19/18