Directed by: Kyle Marvin
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Written by Patrick Hao
It is easy to snicker at the logline as the title premise of “80 for Brady.” In fact, the film is everything negative you expect from it. Produced by the briefly retired Tom Brady of 2022, the film using Tom’s image and the NFL’s footage is a hagiography to the two great brands, and annoyingly so. The film is noticeably cheap, with the budget understandably reserved for the four stars at the center of the film. And the film is lit and shot so garishly that it made my teeth hurt. Yet despite all that “80 for Brady” makes for a fun theater-going experience. Just don’t invest in crypto. A large part is due to the fact that beyond the two central brands, the film is promoting, ultimately, this is a celebration of four great actresses who are not simply snoozing their way through the material. Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, Sally Field, and Jane Fonda take “80 for Brady” seriously and fully commit to its premise and the film returns the favor by celebrating their zeal which in turn becomes infectious to the audience watching them.
To be fair to the four actresses, they are bolstered by a deceptively deft script by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, whose secure handling of setups and punchlines could be academic. The film follows four friends who are obsessed with the New England Patriots, particularly the quarterback Tom Brady. Amongst them is Lou (Lily Tomlin), whose home is where everyone congregates for Patriots games, Trish (Jane Fonda), who is frequently getting in and out of relationships, Maura (Rita Moreno), who is still grieving the loss of her husband after many years, and Betty (Sally Field), whose straight-laced mathematics professor life has made her want to try something a bit more unpredictable.
Lou, whose love of the Patriots started after she began chemotherapy for cancer the year that Tom Brady replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, is spurred by a recent doctor’s visit that this is the year that she and her friends should go to Super Bowl LI to watch the Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons as one final hurrah. Did I mention that this film is a 2017 period piece? Super Bowl LI is of course a fitting one to set the film in as that is the one time you can conceivably call the New England Patriots underdogs after going down 21 to 3 at halftime. Predictably the girls get into a series of shenanigans including the classic old person takes marijuana gag and meeting various celebrities such as Guy Fieri playing himself and Billy Porter playing a Lady Gaga (who was performing the halftime show that year) choreographer.
The film fully knows what it is and does not aspire to be anything other than the best possible version of a movie called “80 for Brady.” Sally Field in particular gives an incredibly committed performance as a woman trying to explore happiness beyond being a caretaker for her husband (Bob Balaban). She imbues her character with integrity just like she would in “Place in the Heart” or “My Name is Doris.” The same can be said about Rita Moreno, who being in her 90s, is still incredibly physical in her comic timing. Even the four-scene performance by the widower pining after Maura’s heart (Glynn Thurman) is heart-wrenching. It is this over-commitment to material that could have been easily brushed aside that makes “80 for Brady” so watchable. That and a few moments of Tom Green-level absurdism. A lot of that absurdism comes from the almost Dadaist performance that Tom Brady gives as an idealized version of himself. Strangely, Jane Fonda falls to the wayside as her character has the least to do throughout the movie.
Despite its cynical origins, “80 for Brady” is an earnest celebration of older women who are willing to embrace adventure and friendship. This is a comedy that allows itself to lean into its old-fashionedness and say that it’s cool to be uncool. Plus there is always a place for movie stars to be on screen and have a good time with each other. It scarcely matters that there was never a second that I actually believed that these women could pick Danny Amendola out of a line-up.
“80 for Brady” Trailer
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