Grandma

We meet Elle (Lily Tomlin), a poet, a feminist in her 70s with a cult following, cruelly breaking up with her younger girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer) after their relationship of a few months, then crying in the shower. That isn’t the one that mattered. Violet is the one that mattered. It lasted 36 years, and then Vi died.

Elle is wearing an honors cap and gown and going over old photos when her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) arrives with a problem. She’s pregnant, she needs $630, and she has an appointment for an abortion in eight hours.

Why wouldn’t she think her independent, successful grandma would be the one to turn to? Well, she’s not. She was sick and tired of being in debt for Vi’s medical bills, so she paid off all her debts and she now has $40. And she cut up all her credit cards and made wind chimes out of them.

This role seemed created for Lily Tomlin. That’s because it was. Writer and director Paul Weitz (“Admission,” “Being Flynn,” “About A Boy”) had the story idea for many years, but it never really fully formed until he met and worked with Tomlin on the film “Admission,” saying that “After meeting Lily, the voice and the character really clicked. I had thought about it for years, so I had a lot of it worked out in my head, and then I just went to a coffee shop and wrote it longhand.”

Elle asks Sage whether she’s really thought it over…Yes. What about the father… No. Well, he has to take some responsibility. He’ll be the first stop on this intergenerational buddy movie.

Off they go in a temperamental 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer (Tomlin’s own car) to see Cam (Nat Wolff), the father, a total idiot who makes the mistake of insulting not just Sage, but Elle. He’s more interested in playing living-room hockey than being polite or responsible. Elle’s had enough, and the hockey stick ends up in, well, a very uncomfortable place on his body. (Why didn’t the audience applaud?)

Elle decides to sell some valuable first editions – Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Simone de Beauvoir. She can’t believe Sage has never heard of “The Feminine Mystique.” (Neither could I. I said “She wasn’t raised well.” I think I said it out loud.)

Deathy (Laverne Cox) at the store owes Elle money – but doesn’t have it, and offers tattoos. And the books aren’t worth anywhere near what Elle thinks.

Next stop is a visit to Karl (Sam Elliott), whom Elle hasn’t seen in a very, very long time. There’s a bit of awkwardness considering Elle lived with him on a boat then left without a word in the dead of night many years ago.

Oh no, now they have to see Judy – Elle’s daughter and Sage’s mom. Superachieving, judgmental, negative. Played perfectly by Marcia Gay Harden. When they arrive, Judy is working in her office – at a treadmill desk.

The movie is not political, but it is about strength and resilience, mixed with a lot of humor. It is unapologetic because it doesn’t need to be. It’s among the best of Lily Tomlin, and it’s not to be missed.

Robert Klein’s Advice To The President

It might have been five years ago, but it’s funnier than today’s politics … if possible.

This stays pretty current. Is it available at your corner pharmacy yet?

This was all part of a 2010 performance at the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It’s worth seeing. Robert Klein just gets better.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll premiered on July 16. FX gave the green light to five episodes. Hope there will be more.

Denis Leary stars as the broke, burned-out, coked-out, former 90s lead singer of The Heathens, with the prosaic rock star name Johnny Rock. Leary is making fun of himself and his leftover bad hairdo, because he created the show, writes it, directs it, stars in it and writes all the songs.

He opens the first show by doing lines of powdered laundry detergent, getting it mixed up with the pile of cocaine sitting next to it. “Best blow I’ve ever done. It’s got little green flakes in it, man.”

The band was the Heathens, a great stage success in the late 80s and early 90s. Their lead guitarist was Flash (John Corbett), drummer Bam Bam (Robert Kelly), bass player Rehab (John Ales) and backup singer Ava (Elaine Hendrix). They had to struggle for the spotlight (literally) https://www.youtube.com/embed/PiW-2XvnruU“>shining on Johnny at all times. They’ve all left the drugs behind, except Johnny. Flash is now Lady Gaga’s guitarist. Rehab and Bam Bam are doing fine in other bands.

They broke up because of infighting, all because of Johnny and his ego. Oh yes, and because he slept with everyone’s wife and girlfriend. (SO much he doesn’t remember!) And the timing wasn’t the best – the band broke up the day their record was released.

Right now Johnny’s agent has nothing for him. How is he supposed to work, 9 to 5?

Ava and Bam Bam have stuck with Johnny. They’re all out in a bar when Johnny sees a young woman coming on to him. After he trips on his way over to her – smooth – her greeting is not a smile, but a well-placed knee.

She’s his daughter he never knew he had. (It can happen. Remember Liv Tyler and Steven Tyler?)

Her name is Gigi. She’s a singer. She wants Flash and Johnny to write songs for her. His eye-rolling stops with her one statement – “I’m rich.”

Now Johnny’s determined to make this happen. But Flash hates him. Their conversation goes nowhere until he shows Flash her picture. Suddenly he’s in. Time to get the whole band – who hate Johnny—together.

Here’s where Denis Leary lets loose as caustic, pathetic Johnny about how bad it is for rockers to be sober:
About John Lennon: “He’d gotten so boring that if Mark David Chapman hadn’t shot him, Yoko probably would have.”

About bands in general: “Name one great band or rock star that doesn’t get high,” he asks the band in a mini-intervention. They respond: “Coldplay, Morrissey, Radiohead …” Johnny: “I rest my case.”

Enter Gigi, (Elizabeth Gillies, from “Victorious” and “iCarli” on Nickelodeon), not looking shy, not acting shy, in the recording studio. Johnny cringes when she declares she’d sleep with Flash. Then he (and everybody else) are amazed. The kid can sing.

That’s why there should be more than five episodes.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

It’s not too often that I photocopy certain pages of a book before I return it to the shelf. But this book contained magic tricks and cocktail recipes. So I did.

Neil Patrick Harris enjoyed the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books of his childhood, so his autobiography was written by you … entirely in the second person. There are choices at the end of chapters to skip ahead to a new favorite page. (But you don’t want to.)

From his description, you will get your big break at acting camp, decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D., spend years struggling with your sexuality, and decide what kind of caviar you want to eat onboard Elton John’s yacht.

But it was Harris, not you, who was a successful child actor who didn’t mess up his life, continued working in TV, movies and stage, and dealt with the confusion of dating women and why he was unhappy with that.

“You” grow up in show business, eventually winning 19 various awards among 41 nominations. You star in 10 seasons of TV’s “How I Met Your Mother” as the womanizing Barney Stinson. You host the Tony Awards four times. In 2011, your opening number, “It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BHyfYiBt5) wins an Emmy! You’re the host of the Emmys twice. (The book was written too early to say that you’d host the Oscars in 2015.)

You share some pages with friends who write about you – Kelly Ripa, Nathan Fillion, and Sarah Silverman. Fun. The most fun, and the most touching, is the evolution of your relationship with your husband, David Burtka, and the birth of your twins. You’re the luckiest person in the world. That’s clear.

Have you shared everything? All the ups and downs? We’re not sure. After all, there is some magic involved.

The Book of Joan by Melissa Rivers

We lost Joan Rivers on September 4, 2014, following a minor throat procedure at an outpatient clinic in Manhattan leading to serious complications, further leading to a medically induced coma from which she never awakened. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said she died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen, and the details of her surgery would be investigated by officials. On January 26, 2015, Melissa Rivers filed a malpractice lawsuit against the clinic and doctors performing surgery on her mother.

I miss Joan Rivers. I want Melissa Rivers to own that clinic – or to shut it down. But that’s just how I feel. That’s not in the book.

Know what else is not in the book? Did you know that Joan earned a Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College? No, she never bragged about that. Let’s talk about what was in the book. Melissa’s words are a lot better than mine.

How about the dedication:

For my Mother,

Whom I think about every day,

And for my Father,

Who, as of this past September,

Is no longer resting in peace

Melissa preceded some chapters with stories or quotes from Joan, which are irresistible.

“Missy, I don’t understand why celebrities think it’s okay to make out in restaurants and theaters. It’s a public place. Who else behaves like this? Did you ever see a chiropractor sucking his wife’s toes in a Taco Bell? I think not.”

“Realize how lucky you are. Fame is not a burden.”

“Your father didn’t care if I went to bed mad. He cared if I went to Bergdorf mad.”

“When it came to my boyfriends my mother had no middle ground; she either liked them or hated them. The ones I liked the most she liked the least. Oddly, she seemed to prefer the rich ones.”

Joan Rivers was fearless. She surprised plenty – by saying what they were thinking but wouldn’t dare say. At age 81 she was coming out with comments on “Fashion Police” that would land others in court. Too bad. She was Joan Rivers.

She got away with it.

We miss her. Melissa brings her back to us, a little bit.

Nightingale

The elegant David Oyelowo, who showed us Martin Luther King as a tragic hero in “Selma,” breaks our hearts once again in a completely different way.

“Nightingale” debuted on May 29 on HBO and is showing until June 22.

Peter Snowden is an army veteran with a hated job bagging groceries. We don’t see him in the market. We don’t see him outside at all. He’s inside his house. Alone. Talking to himself, therefore to us.

“Nightingale” is a one-man show, until we realize Peter is wildly disturbed and has been left with several personalities.

He goes to the porch to receive a delivery, and remarks on Mother’s vanity. Why did she order a three-part mirror?

He gives us a hint that his mother nagged him just a bit too much, “and I just snapped…and there was so much blood.” But we see nothing, until he looks around for his glasses and has to wipe blood off them.

Calling Norman Bates.

Peter is obsessed with arranging a dinner with his army buddy Edward. He is using a video camera to record these important plans – just the right menu, fixing up the place, oh what to wear. He’s nervous. He’s positively giddy.

Before calling, Peter holds the phone and rehearses his conversation with Edward. This is obviously an important event and an important invitation. He’s determined.

He leaves a voicemail for Edward, happily describing a “change in circumstances.” Yes, there’s been a change, all right.

He keeps on calling, and he repeatedly gets Edward’s wife Gloria on the phone. He’s as frustrated as Gloria is. She just won’t put him on. “How are you and how are the children” changes in tone as the calls multiply.

There are also concerned calls for Mother. Peter lies. She’s lying down. She’s stepped out. She’s never available. He lies to her friends. He lies to his sister. He screams at his sister. His mood changes by the second. He snaps. He’s wildly angry.

All that matters is Edward, and that’s not working out.

You’re in that house with Peter, it’s claustrophobic, he’s painted himself into a smaller and smaller corner, and you can’t take your eyes off him. He’s left looking into that mirror, just hopelessly staring. What’s staring back? He shows us madness. Words aren’t necessary anymore.

Grace of Monaco: From Cannes to Lifetime TV

Nicole Kidman starred as Princess Grace of Monaco in a biopic that opened the Cannes Film Festival. It was a failure. Then it failed again in European theaters. The royal family of Monaco hated the film. The American producer Harvey Weinstein and the French director Olivier Dahan fought in public and had two different visions of the film. It never appeared on American screens and ended up on the Lifetime TV network.

Let’s see, it started out as Oscar bait and ended up on a Sunday night on cable. And – thank you – not costing $12.

To say this was a waste of Nicole Kidman is an understatement. She is 20 times the actor Grace Kelly ever was, so she could do (in her sleep) Kelly’s supposed speech to French President Charles deGaulle at the end of the film imploring him to spare tiny Monaco his taxation scheme.

U.S. stargazers had gone crazy in 1955 when Oscar winner Grace Kelly left Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier and become Princess of Monaco, a tiny principality on the French Riviera smaller than New York’s Central Park. The movie doesn’t touch on what biographers have told us – that the prince needed a wife; that the marriage was a wonderful arrangement; and that they each had several affairs over the years.   

Six years into her marriage, Princess Grace is approached by Alfred Hitchcock to star in “Marnie.” She would love the opportunity, but the prince (the wonderful but wasted Tim Roth) would never allow a kissing scene and doesn’t trust Hitchcock or Hollywood. The princess is feeling stifled in the palace. The prince is in political crisis.

French president Charles deGaulle (Andre Penvern) wants to tax French citizens and French businesses enjoying the famous tax-free environment of Monaco. The film goes far beyond the 1962 reality, with deGaulle sending in tanks and setting up a blockade.

Grace doesn’t go to Hollywood, and she persuades deGaulle that tiny Monaco should continue without exploitation or heavy taxation.

And they didn’t live happily ever after.