Review by Sean Boelman
Co-written and directed by Asian-American filmmaker Sasie Sealy, Lucky Grandma is a new crime comedy with plenty of laughs. Thanks to a strong lead performance and a solid script, this is an entertaining indie comedy that may have gone under the radar if not for audiences needing something to watch.
The film follows an elderly woman who, following an optimistic reading from a fortune teller, has a wild day at the casino and finds herself stuck in the middle of a war between the two most powerful gangs in Chinatown. It’s a ridiculous premise, but it’s done subtly enough to be funny while still feeling grounded in some sort of reality.
One of the film’s biggest successes is that it balances the comedy with the more suspenseful elements of the story quite well. Even though the stakes are never insanely high, this isn’t quite the “sweet granny” movie that the title implies it might be. There’s an undeniable and enjoyable bite and edge to this movie.
Of course, the eponymous character is quite lovable, a fitting protagonist for a charming film. At times, the character’s arc leans a bit into cliches about the elderly, but there’s an obvious tongue-in-cheek nature to the way in which Sealy and co-writer Angela Cheng handle these elements of the movie.
On the other hand, the antagonistic characters of the film feel entirely underwritten. More often than not, they come across as over-the-top caricatures of gangsters. Admittedly, they’re still a ton of fun to watch, but it draws the viewer out of what is otherwise a surprisingly effective and emotional storyline.
Tsai Chin is absolutely wonderful in her leading role and is the clear highlight of the movie. She is subtly hilarious, giving a performance that has a lot of deadpan qualities about it. There aren’t any obvious standouts in the supporting cast, but everyone does a solid job of serving as a scene partner for Chin, who absolutely commands the spotlight.
On a technical level, the film is very good. This is Sealy’s directorial debut, but the movie is beyond competent and feels very stylized. The cinematography and production design have a very neo-noir flavor to them that creates an interesting effect when paired with the witty and comedic dialogue of the script.
Lucky Grandma has a couple areas that could have used improvement, but as Sasie Sealy’s feature debut, it shows she has a lot of talent. It’s a perfectly amusing movie, and a quick one at that, making it worth your time and support.
Lucky Grandma is now streaming in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.