In 1980, a group of rosy-cheeked children from St Winifred’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Stockport famously topped the UK Christmas singles chart with There’s No One Quite Like Grandma.
The cherubic moppets rejoiced: “She always has a smile, she never hurries us along...”
The lead character in Paul Weitz’ delightful comedy drama sticks up two fingers to that beatific image of patience and enduring grace in old age.
Portrayed with gusto by Lily Tomlin, this grandma is a potty-mouthed whirling dervish, who spits in the eye of political correctness, clobbers a rude teenager with a hockey stick and openly discusses her bodily functions.
“My last period was 25 years ago. We did a ceremony for it,” confides the ballsy septuagenarian.
It’s a meaty, eye-catching role full of vim that could deservedly land the Detroit-born actress a second Oscar nomination.
Weitz’ film is also blessed with a nuanced supporting performance from Julia Garner as a granddaughter, who acts tough but is ill-prepared for the harsh reality of life when it bites her and draws blood.
Lesbian poet Elle (Lily Tomlin) is slowly coming to terms with the death of her long-term partner Vi.
She lashes out and coldly terminates a fledgling romance by telling her girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer): “You’re a footnote.”
Soon after, Elle’s 18-year-old granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) arrives in search of money.
“I need $630. I’m pregnant,” reveals the teenager, who has booked an appointment at an abortion clinic, but doesn’t have the funds for it.
Nor does Elle, but that doesn’t stop the grandmother from jumping into her car with Sage and tearing around Los Angeles to call in unpaid debts.
They initially visit Sage’s slacker boyfriend Cam (Nat Wolff), whose scruffy appearance and laissez faire attitude to birth control rankles Elle. “Some people shouldn’t grow beards because it makes their face look like an armpit,” she snarls.
Further pit-stops include a transgender tattoo artist called Deathy (Laverne Cox), Elle’s ex-husband Karl (Sam Elliott) and Sage’s workaholic mother Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), who writes emails while walking on a treadmill-desk.
As the deadline for the abortion approaches, Sage’s emotional dam breaks.
“If you don’t cry about this... what the hell are you gonna cry about?” sympathises Elle.
Grandma is a slight, yet entertaining character study, anchored by Tomlin’s formidable turn as a fiercely independent woman, who continues to blaze a trail in her later years. She catalyses delightful screen chemistry with Garner and Elliott, aided by a script peppered with sparkling one-liners.
Weitz’ unhurried direction allows the focus to remain on the cast as they wrestle with their characters’ manifold dilemmas and make peace with their momentous decisions.