Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), an elderly poet and retired college professor, is a widow still adjusting to the recent death of Violet, her partner of 38 years. Her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), unexpectedly knocks on her door, informing Elle that she is pregnant and needs over $600.00 for an abortion, which is scheduled for 5 pm that afternoon.
Sage wants to make an ‘end-run’ around her well-off, controlling and angry mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden). (It’s football season and I can’t resist the metaphor.)
Unfortunately, Elle has had considerable debt and had to use all her savings to pay it all off. Due to her excessive credit card use, she has cut her up cards and turned them into a sculpture, so she doesn’t have the financial resources to pay for the abortion. Sage’s boyfriend also lacks the funds. (I found this basic premise totally unrealistic. There is no very-intelligent woman in her 60’s who wouldn’t have $600 in a savings account.)
The film consists of Elle driving Sage around in her unreliable jalopy, trying to get the money. Elle is a curmudgeonly woman who is constantly spewing out sarcastic wisecracks, but in a provocative and self-sabotaging way, which was painful for me to watch. She was so hostile that I found her character unrealistic. Sage is merely a generic knocked-up teenager whose character wasn’t even explored, let alone well-developed.
The movie was salvaged by a fantastic 15-minute scene between Elle and a man who she previously knew well, Karl (Sam Elliott). Elle wants the $600.00 — which Karl can easily afford — but their past makes this request rather complicated.
Writer/Director Carl Weitz is obviously talented based on that 15 minute scene, but the rest of the movie wasn’t nearly of that caliber. Tomlin shines (as does Elliott), and the film has plenty of laughs, but it’s not compelling enough for a trip to the BS.