Friday, February 3, 2023


In theaters this weekend:

80 for Brady--It's a testament to the star power of the four leading ladies in this movie that I didn't resent that their characters were Tom Brady fans. Not that much, anyway. I didn't even resent that the film amounts to a feature-length commercial for the NFL; it's being released the weekend before Super Bowl Sunday, almost as if the league is trying to offer its own counterprogramming.

Who cares? At this point in their careers, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno could pretty much read grocery lists and it would carry a certain pop-culture gravitas. The script, by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern and inspired by a real-life circle of elderly Boston-based fans of Tommy Boy and the Patriots, doesn't really offer them much more to work with than a grocery list would, and they still come off all right.

Tomlin, a cancer survivor, is the outspoken instigator who insists that she and her friends must go watch Brady play in the 2017 Big Game. Fonda is a flirt given to romantically leaping before she looks; she's also successful writer of erotic fiction about Rob Gronkowski. Field is an academic weary of her dependent, literally absent-minded professor husband (Bob Balaban) and Moreno yearns to break free of assisted living despite a fellow resident (Glynn Turman) who likes her.

The quartet ends up in Houston having wacky adventures at the Super Bowl Experience and at parties and poker games and chicken wing eating contests and such. All does not, it need hardly be said, go smoothly. They're befriended by the choreographer of the half-time show (Billy Porter) and if you think they don't end up dancing to get past security, think again.

With her blunt, urgent delivery, Tomlin somehow emerges as the team captain of the ensemble. But all four are infectiously energetic and seem to enjoy goofing around with the supporting players shoved in their paths, like Porter, or Harry Hamlin as a love interest for Fonda, or Sara Gilbert as Tomlin's daughter, or Andy Richter as a high roller in a skybox, or Alex Moffat and Rob Corrddry as a dyspeptic sports-talk team, and of course Brady and Gronk and Guy Fieri and others as themselves. Even the bit players include the likes of Patton Oswalt and Sally Kirkland.

80 for Brady starts slow, but it should be said that as it progresses, and gets broader and sillier, it also gets better; both livelier and more heartfelt. By the end these women had me absurdly emotionally invested. This is, possibly, the lamest and most ridiculous film that has ever brought tears to my eyes.

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