With this week’s announcement of retirement at the tail end of a blown season – you know, for what the third time – after having messed up his marriage to model Giselle Bunchen, one-time QB and one-time husband Tom Brady could have used one in the win column.
That victory came with his first-ever co-starring screen role in 80 for Brady, and its opening weekend slot at number two with James Cameron’s Avatar 2 trailing behind it. Several old women and a first-time movie actor trouncing Cameron’s blue people felt great, especially since I have no love for this franchise, or Cameron’s work as a whole (stop the lab experiments of weighing and measuring people to see if Leonardo DiCaprio could have actually survived the raging seas of Titanic already).
The adult comedy (No. I don’t mean ‘porn,’ but rather a film for people of over 45 years of age who make no attempt at the pretense of being children or caring about the MCU) has been titled by some critics as a “fumble” (ooh, sports metaphor burns). To my eyes, however, 80 for Brady is more of a lateral pass, wonky and safe, but well-executed in the hands of veteran comedic actors Lily Tomlin, Rita Jane Fonda and Sally Field.
80 for Brady is not sports comedy or a football film, although it doesn’t truly eschew either category. Think of it as Every Other Sunday meets Girl Trip or The Golden Girls Go Gridiron (the latter of which, yeah, does actually sound like a 1990’s porn film, so scratch that). Based on a true story of four longtime octogenarian friends who road-tripped to the 2017 Super Bowl to cheer on their mancrush, QB favorite Tom Brady, the film is a gentle delight anchored by two comedy actors who work together with seamless ease – the Fonda and Tomlin of Network’s Grace & Frankie series.
Few 21st Century comedies had as many back-to-back-to-back-to-back jokes as Grace & Frankie (thanks Marta Kaufman) and few actors could handle the set up/punchline pacing and timing as did Fonda and Tomlin. And as much as I have forever loved Tomlin for her stage comedies (The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe) and film laughs (Nashville, Short Cuts, I Heart Huckabees), Fonda is another story. Other than 9 to 5 (also with Tomlin and Dolly Parton) and maybe Fun with Dick and Jane, Fonda is an Oscar winner for dramas such as Klute and Coming Home. Nothing funny about a Vietnam War drama. Yet, when Fonda plays comic games – not foil, but keeping up – with Tomlin, it’s a thing of beauty (something we’ll see soon, again, when the two star in Moving On, out this spring). And be honest, Sally Field and Rita Moreno are tops in drama and comedy, what with having won their own shares of Oscars and performed some genius comedic cinema, from Soapdish and Mrs. Doubtfire to Carnal Knowledge).
Directed by Kyle Marvin, 80 for Brady’s character foursome (exploded versions of the actors themselves, save for Tomlin who tamps things down a mite as a cancer victim), appreciate the film’s titular Tom more for his muscled body than his throwing arm, but no matter. The only way to best embrace the quarterback is in fighting form on the field, and that means a road trip and a wink and a nod to the fact that women can appreciate pigskin play just as much as men (the female-scripted 80fB is co-written by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern).
With Tomlin’s character recuperating from chemotherapy in front of a television unendingly stuck on football games, her girlfriends Fonda, Moreno and Field catch gridiron fever when they glimpse Brady hard at work. The foursome become New England Patriots fans, Tomlin’s character goes into remission and Moreno gets a reprieve from her retirement home, setting their dreams in motion to see towering Tom up-close and personal. The real revelation comes in Fonda’s backstory as a fan-fiction-writing, one-time Mayflower Girl whose beauty queen standing came from hard physical work at all cost. Similar in spirit and emotion o Emma Thompson’s film ending nude striptease in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Fonda strips away make up and hair to show what it takes to be sensational.
That drama aside, each actor enjoys riffing off the other, even when the script is lame (the plan to slip into into Patriot’s game stadium as Billy Porter’s backup dancers gets sillier by the second), and Brady, bobblehead and otherwise (watch the movie), has his own way in on the comedy with his own sense of ever so slighted stilted dialogue. For the record, John Cena was no big whoops when he hit the big screen from the wrestling matt. Dave Bautista either. Now look at them. Bautista is in the film ahead of 80 for Brady at the box office score this weekend, Knock at the Cabin.
Maybe it wouldn’t be likely that four 80-year-old women and not billionaire businessman/ New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft give quarterback Brady the pep talk he needs to win the Big Game in 80 for Brady. Hell, he’s willing to pay Brady for a one-day contract just to come back to New England and retire a Patriot. Still, watching these four golden girls and comic giants do they trick is worth the rice of admission. And Tom Brady gets a much deserved victory in 2023, even if it is fiction.
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