Grandma

The pistol-packin’ granny has been a comedy archetype for years, but it turns out to be the role of a lifetime for Lily Tomlin, whose tour de force performance lights up this well-written escapade by Paul Weitz (About a Boy). Her character, Elle Reid, is an irascible poet whose straight marriage ended long ago and whose more recent romance with an academic colleague (Judy Greer) she terminates in the movie’s raw opening scene. Shortly thereafter Elle’s school-age granddaughter (Julia Garner) comes to her needing money for an abortion, and the pair set off on a comic odyssey involving both Elle’s former lover (Sam Elliott) and the girl’s mother (Marcia Gay Harden), who has hard feelings for Elle. The three generations of women are all nicely drawn, but this is Tomlin’s show—her acerbic Elle ranks with Ernestine and Edith Ann among her greatest characters.