If you've already seen the trailer for 80 for Brady, then you've also already likely decided if this is a film for you. The truth is that in most instances 80 for Brady would be just the latest in a long line of post-awards season throwaway films, a cute but instantly forgettable effort that would surface with little fanfare only to be quickly relegated to the world of late-night streaming platforms.
However, 80 for Brady is gifted with a quartet of this generation's finest actresses with a collection of Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and Grammys between them. The presence of even one of these actresses would elevate 80 for Brady. The presence of all four turns 80 for Brady takes a cute idea and makes it a genuinely entertaining one.
Inspired by a true story and co-written by Booksmart scribes Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, 80 for Brady tells the story who'd become a united front when Lou (Lily Tomlin) was going through chemo treatments and friends Trish (Jane Fonda), Betty (Sally Field), and Maura (Rita Moreno) wrapped around her. As the story goes, it was a Patriots/Jets game stuck on the television when an unknown quarterback named Tom Brady was called into action and the now legendary quarterback grew alongside this now legendary friendship. Ever since, they've gathered annually for the big game even as their own lives have taken the obligatory twists and turns/
While 80 for Brady is inspired by a true story, rest assured that what unfolds here is far more fantastic than what unfolded in real-life. However, in the hands of such gifted writers as Halpern and Haskins this is a story that dazzles with equal parts humanity, heart, and humor. All four of these actresses know what it means to be part of an ensemble and they make the most of it here, shining in their individual moments yet shining brightly when the ensemble is front-and center.
Tom Brady is here, of course, and a little too much for my liking. He's charismatic and likable enough, but if Brady hopes for a post-career transition to Hollywood he's got some serious work to do. Alongside these award-winning actresses, Brady pales in comparison as a performer but still manages to maintain an engaging screen presence.
Folks like Glynn Turman, Billy Porter, and Guy Fieri are here for the fun of it and each add enough of a spark to make us smile throughout this breezy 98-minute journey that is content to entertain and never really goes for much else. Truthfully, after the three-hour epics of awards season it's rather refreshing.
As the cinematic centerpiece, Lily Tomlin shines as Lou, now facing late-life dilemmas with the cancer that united her with these women and now threatens a return to her life. Tomlin's scenes with Grace & Frankie partner Jane Fonda sparkle brightly and the two are an absolute joy to watch.
Sally Field was the only one of the four not to be an octogenarian when 80 for Brady, a real-life scenario that becomes a cinematic one. Field takes a one-note character and turns her into a symphony of humor, vulnerability, and frequently funny matter-of-factness.
Given even less to do, Moreno still manages to light up the screen.
80 for Brady is neither as awful as the trailer implies it might be nor as successful as it could have been. The script by Halpern and Haskins is never quite as intelligent as was Booksmart, though its genuinely refreshing to have a group of octogenarians, not including Field's Betty of course, treated with the dignity and respect they deserve while also finding the laughs in what it means to grow older as a woman in the U.S.
Giving their best in a film that laughs with them rather than at them, these four iconic actresses turn 80 for Brady into a heartfelt and humorous tale of the love and support they provide one another and the adventures they have left to live. While 80 for Brady won't be remembered come awards season, this little cinematic gem is one that will be remembered for uniting such a winning ensemble cast and making us fall in love with them all over again.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic