It began with an early morning screening of Mad Max: Fury Road in 3D – an immense, relentless and visually stunning epic. It’s a full throttle beast of a movie filled with kick-ass women and men, and a metallically discordant fire-spewing guitarist.
I left the auditorium on a high, wanting to fight and accidentally scared a few colleagues by summing up my enjoyment with “the main thing I love is how beat-up she is by the end”. What I really meant was just how refreshing it is to watch a movie with a fully-formed, brave, kind and vulnerable female hero in the lead (yes the lead, even the title of the film doesn’t take that away from the dogged Furiosa). The story doesn’t hold back on Furiosa, but continually delivers huge walloping thumps, without turning her into a victim of the male dystopia she finds herself in.
However, it was not only Mad Max: Fury Road that compelled me to write a few words; my Phoenix film day finished with a screening of Grandma. I could sum this film up with two key words – Lily Tomlin.
I feel as though I know her. As if I was watching the actress in motion and not her character Elle Reid – a flawed but delightfully loving and protective grandma. The film takes place over just a few hours driving around town; it’s the smallest road trip film you’ll find. There’s little progression within the immediate story but as Elle and her granddaughter Sage drive from old friends to previous lovers’ houses, a rich foray into their past lives unfolds. Elle is feisty, funny and short tempered, and unknowingly holds Sage’s admiration; if slightly hidden under confusion and occasional disapproval as she discovers more about grandma than she knew before.
The marvellous Marcia Gay Harden packs a punch as ever as Sage’s mother and Elle’s daughter, an uptight and dogmatic workaholic, who we first see in business dress and trainers on a walking machine/standing desk contraption in her office. She is feared by both generations and commands control but really doesn’t hold any over them in the end.
The film is, in effect, an exposé of relationships; complex family emotions are uncovered to tell one story, a look, a sigh or a dry laugh tell another and their past lives are exposed to us like photos in an old album. We see their love, loss, fear, foibles, determination and ultimate acceptance of themselves and each other, presented delicately through simple interactions. There are no big reveals, no mind bending twists, just strikingly natural conversation. And it’s an absolute pleasure.
Lily Tomlin is wonderfully Lily, and who would have it any other way!