Far more important than the questions “Does any of this make sense?” and “Are there any surprises in the storyline?” are the questions, “It is fun to watch?” Yes! “Does it give each of these fabulous actors a chance to shine?” Yes, yes, yes, and yes. With a screenplay by “Booksmart“‘s Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, a lot happens and things move fast, so the parts that don’t work well are over quickly.
These pros are superb scene partners, and the ensemble scenes are among the highlights. And each makes the most of her solo moments. Moreno lights up the screen in a high-stakes poker game and her masterfully underplayed negotiation with a scalper. Field takes what could be a dreary character and makes us see her vulnerability and integrity; she even makes an extremely dumb joke about calling a fanny pack “a strap-on” work. Her insistence that she’s not an “80” for Brady since she is still in her 70s is not about vanity; it’s about her dedication to mathematic precision.
Meanwhile, Lou struggles with secrets about her health and how the trip came together but relishes her role as the one who inspires the others, including Brady himself. Fonda brings warmth to the thinnest-written role. While a disrespectful character calls the four women “Golden Girls,” she is not a one-note “isn’t it cute that an old lady likes sex” joke. Rather, she’s a tender-hearted but resilient optimist who has been re-inventing herself since she got too old for her job as a spokesmodel for a car dealer. And Fonda’s chemistry with her “Grace and Frankie” co-star and close friend Lily Tomlin continues to sparkle.
“80 for Brady” isn’t just about these characters proving to themselves that they value their friendships and are still open to adventure. Indeed, it’s the support they give each other, and the idea that they have nothing left to lose that makes them more willing to take risks than those two generations younger. That goes for the people who portray them as well; it’s pure joy to see these women we have loved and grown with over the decades. They still give their considerable best to make us laugh, dream of our own adventures, and wish they could be around for another two centuries.
Now playing in theaters.