Paul Weitz ("About a Boy") directs Lily Tomlin's first leading role in nearly 30 years, in the lovely, minor-key road trip comedy, "Grandma." Tomlin plays tart-tongued, septuagenarian lesbian-feminist-poet, Elle, who as the film opens is in the process of breaking up with her much younger girlfriend of four months (Judy Greer). She's still licking her wounds when her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner, TV's "The Americans") shows up on her doorstep, explaining that she needs $630 to procure an abortion she has scheduled for later that day. Temporarily broke -- and having cut up her credit cards -- Elle is at a loss to provide monetary support, so the pair climb into Elle's shabby Dodge Royal (Tomlin's actual car), setting off to collect what money they can, dropping in on whomever they think they might be able to wring a few dollars out of. All the while, they do their best to avoid clueing Sage's mother (Marcia Gay Harden) into the situation her daughter has found herself in.
Weitz's script starts out a little sitcom-y, but deepens as Tomlin finds just the right notes to play, finding the warmth beneath Elle's brittle exterior. Weitz not only provides Tomlin with a great character to play, he finally provides a decent role for Judy Greer after a summer of seeing her saddled with playing the worried mother at least three too many times. As Elle shakes down Sage's loser of a boyfriend (Nat Wolff), friends (Laverne Cox, the late Elizabeth Peña), and even her ex-husband (Sam Elliott, whose scenes with Tomlin provide a wealth of emotion) the film fills in Elle's history, growing into a poignant character study.