Friday, August 28, 2015
In the opening scene, a retired poet Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) coldly dumps her much younger lover Olivia (Judy Greer) by labeling her as just a "footnote." Later we learn that Elle is still grieving for the recent death of her long time partner Violet, although that still doesn't make her behavior rational. She seems to be angry toward the world surrounding her. She hardly speaks to her estranged daughter Judy (Marcia Gay Harden). She has few friends. Even though she has very little money in the wallet, she cuts up her credit cards to be free from debt. Now she is also free from her devastated young lover.
Then Elle's granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up at Elle's door and drops a bomb—Sage is pregnant and she needs $620 to pay for an abortion in the afternoon. Elle is Sage's last resort because she cannot let her mom Judy know about this. Suddenly the forgotten feminist intellectual Elle finds her new purpose in life. But the trouble is that she can hardly find any money herself. Without wasting any time, Elle gets into her vintage car with Sage and starts their fund-raising effort, including paying a visit to Karl (Sam Elliott), whom she was married to a long time ago before she came out as a lesbian.
The setup of the plot seems a little bit too convenient. It's hard to believe that as an accomplished scholar and poet, Elle cannot even come up with $620. It's also incomprehensible that Sage is so desperate to have the abortion done today that Elle must go as far as seeing her ex-husband Karl whom she has not spoken to for decades. However, if you can forgive the convenient setup, you will appreciate the superb performances by a fine cast and many witty one-liners by the writer-director Paul Weitz. In fact, the coerced reunion between Elle and Sam is one of the most delicious moments in the film (minus the drinking and driving), and it's already generating some Oscar buzz.
Although the film is billed as a comedy, it's often more poignant than funny. The world appears to have moved on and has left Elle behind, or maybe she chooses to be left alone as the opening scene suggests. Perhaps Elle has her reasons to be angry and it's time for her to get the anger out of her chest.