Lily Tomlin Scores as a Tough-Talking Lesbian Who Cares in Grandma

Lily Tomlin

Photo by Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Lily Tomlin is totally cast against type as an old, gruff, misanthropic lesbian on a mission. Kidding! In fact, there hasn’t been such a perfect marriage of actor and role since Mickey Rourke did The Wrestler or maybe since Judy Garland played Dorothy Gale. And Tomlin (who is currently dealing with a gay husband on Grace and Frankie) is brilliant in the part, delivering wit, humor, subtlety, and ultimately lots of gay heart.

In the Paul Weitz-written and directed dramedy, Lily is poet/academic Elle Reid, a woman who had the love of a lifetime for 38 years (her late lover Vi) and who’s now breaking up a four-month relationship with a younger woman (Judy Greer) since the girlfriend is expecting too much and Elle is clearly expecting too little. In comes Elle’s granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), who’s pregnant and needs about 600 bucks for an abortion which is scheduled for later that day. (“Who’s the guy?” asks Elle, dryly. “I assume there was a penis involved.”) This prompts the two to drive around small-town California in the world’s quickest road trip, hitting up everyone who might give them the cash while dredging up the highs and lows of Elle’s past lives. There’s the offending impregnator himself, whose balls Elle serves a direct blow to. There’s Elle’s transsexual friend, a tattoo artist named Deathy (Laverne Cox, giving the film even more LGBT cred), who owes Elle because the latter helped her out years ago when there was a nasty silicon leak. And there’s Elle’s ex-husband (a terrific Sam Elliot), who’s still smarting over the fact that the then “confused” Elle left him and aborted the baby he didn’t even know existed while running off to explore her lesbianism.

The premise—the search for the money—becomes a contrivance whereby old revelations like that keep popping up, along with scores being settled and angry people softening. (Marcia Gay Harden is fine as Elle’s daughter—and Sage’s mother—who is challenged to become more sensitive to Sage’s condition). But into the formula, Weitz sprinkles surprises and funny twists, and Tomlin is absolutely terrific throughout, whether deadpanning lines like “I’m rapidly approaching 50” or mellowing in her ways as she becomes embroiled in the role of caring grandma with a mission. It’s the role of a lifetime, and she relishes it, while never overplaying or making false moves that a lesser actress might have sprung for.

Most fascinatingly of all, the movie doesn’t go the Juno route and never offers a heartwarming resolution for the pregnancy plotline. It sticks to its pro-choice guns (while showing that this has hardly been easy for Sage) and it even makes merciless fun of an anti-abortion protestor and her vicious little daughter.

Lily has only been Oscar nominated once before—for Best Supporting Actress for Nashville—and she richly deserves her second one for her leading turn in Grandma. And if she’s joined by fellow nominees Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett for Carol and Ellen Page and Julianne Moore for Freeheld, this would surely be the first time where all five Best Actress nominees were lesbians! (I mean playing lesbians. Only two of those five actresses are actually gay, as far as I know.) Cheers, ladies. Your sapphistic-ation is ruling the year in cinema.

Wigstock

Flloyd and two dancers | Photo by Pablo Maine

CRUISING WITH THE DRAG STARS

The grandmas of the drag scene re-established their prominence during last night’s Wigstock cruise, where the legendary drag fest was remembered via performances at sea by some of its  most seasoned stars. Finally, a three-hour tour worth boarding! Lady Bunny and co-organizer Scott Lifshutz turned the event into a reunion, a reinvigoration, and an education, not to mention a chance to defray some of the legal costs involved in keeping the Wigstock trademark alive all these years. The whole thing was a trippy throwback filled with old-school Wigstock looks—which tended to be more personal, messy, and performance-art-oriented than today’s glam and scary-clown drag visages.

Hitting the stage soon after we went out on the Hudson, Bunny thanked DJ Johnny Dynell, noting, “He’s been around so long, he not only spins house, he spins cave.” The drag MC also told us that “Amanda Lepore couldn’t be here, so there’s one less life raft.” And the jokes kept coming via the first segment, a Laugh-In style comedy collage with cracks like, “What’s the difference between Donald Trump and a bag of shit? The bag!” And then each diva went into her star turns, resulting in two Lizas, two Charles Aznavour songs, and a million costume changes. The performances included:

*Sweetie killing it with a joyous lipsynch to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”

*Kevin Aviance going to that cunty place with a song about Special K and an even angstier version of Britney’s “Gimme More.”

*The empress of large, Flotilla DeBarge, greeting the crowd with, “Welcome to the Jurassic World cruise” and belting some blues, and the wonderfully demented Sugga Pie Koko rolling around and slurping down a sandwich to—yep—“Holding Out For a Hero.”

*Princess Diandra (“I haven’t had a drink in 28 days”) scoring with “I Am Woman” from my favorite album, Diana Ross and the Supremes Sing and Perform Funny Girl. (You heard me. It’s the ultimate gay hybrid concept LP.)

*Flloyd doing a ritualistic dance straight out of Burning Man, and Sister Dimension arriving in a giant avocado and whirling around to a Shirley Bassey showtune.

*Sarcasm-dripping comic Linda Simpson tossing off jokes like, “How about that Caitlyn Jenner? She’s got balls!”; “Candis Cayne should get her own show called I Am Desperate”; and  “ ‘Singer RuPaul?’ That’s like saying, ‘Swimmer Bobbi Kristina.’ ” That one had at least one audience member booing, so for Linda, it was mission accomplished.

There was even more watery fun when Sandra Bernhard played Fire Island this weekend, courtesy of naughty promoter Daniel Nardicio. That night, Bernhard revealed that she's going to christen Andy Cohen’s new SiriusXM channel, Radio Andy, with her own show. That’s great—though I won’t rest until she does a lesbian movie with Lily Tomlin!

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