This is a movie reminiscent of Weitz' best work, About a Boy, that gives us a look at people at a crossroads who are all forced to come out of their hiding places that have kept them distant from the world. I give some props to Paul Weitz for seeking out this film. Here's what he wrote in the press notes: "I've written plays with female protagonists but am embarrassed that I haven't directed a movie whose clear lead was a woman."
I will freely admit that I am in the tank for Tina Fey. I just like her. Like everything she does. Like everything she says. But what I liked so much about her in this movie is that I feel we were getting to see a little bit of Tina 2.0. She's pushing herself. In this movie she is able to combine some funny moments with really poignant moments in a struggling adult woman's life. The fact that she is able to act opposite Paul Rudd -- who really is the Tom Hanks of Generation X -- only enhances the heart of this film. And that's what this film has - heart.
The fact that we get Lily Tomlin playing a radical feminist on screen as Tina's mom only made me love it more. We see her wearing a tattoo of Bella Abzug's face (which Lily brought herself) and her character is an old school great feminist thinker who wrote a seminal book and still has many fans. But she dropped out of life, lives in the woods by herself, makes her own bicycle and keeps a really big secret from her daughter which has caused friction between them their whole lives.
I don't remember the last time we saw a character onscreen like Tomlin's Susannah, and it takes a person like Tina Fey and the rest of the team behind this film to allow this character to flourish. In other people's hands she would have easily become a caricature, but Lily Tomlin pulls it off big time. And let's not forget how psychically appropriate it is to have these two play mother and daughter.
Make no mistake, this is a movie that will have a tough climb at the box office. It's not over the top funny and it's not totally intense. It occupies a place that makes us think and makes us laugh a little but then we get a bit uncomfortable at what we are laughing at. It feels like a movie we used to see a generation ago when we had more films with women leads like the ones that starred Goldie Hawn or Bette Midler. Funny and uncomfortable, yet poignant. I miss those kinds of movies.