80 for Brady – movie review

Four elderly women head off on a road trip to the 2017 Superbowl in Texas in support of their idol Tom Brady – the famed quarterback for the New England Patriots regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL.

Another of those films which delight in seeing older folk kick up their heels and misbehave, 80 For Brady is a fairly forgettable film, but it’s fun while on screen and it will definitely appeal to a certain demographic. And when the ensemble cast includes the likes of Oscar winners Jane Fonda (Coming Home), Sally Field (Norma Rae), Rita Moreno (West Side Story) who have five Oscars and a Tony between them, and Lily Tomlin (who has won a handful of Emmys), audiences can at least sit back and enjoy this veteran quartet move through their paces.

The film is loosely based on a true story, but writers Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern (who wrote the superior Booksmart) have taken enormous liberties with the story, adding some spicy fictional details and giving each of the four central characters their own story arc. The humour is broad and good-natured, never mean spirited or condescending, even though much of the film relies on a number of tried-and-true tropes and geriatric jokes. Over the end credits we get a photograph of the actual ladies who inspired the film – five octogenarian widows and dedicated Patriots fans who never got to the Superbowl but whose story obviously resonated strongly with the filmmakers.

Lou (Tomlin) is the heart of the group and their dedication to watching NFL on television dates back to the early 2000s when she was recovering from chemotherapy and gathered her close friends around her for support. They have also developed a ritual which they reenact at the kickoff to every game. Trish (Fonda) is the author of a series of bestselling erotic fiction novels featuring an NFL player, and she is also something of a flirt with a voracious sexual appetite. Maura (Moreno) is a widow who hasn’t quite recovered from the loss of her husband, and she still lives in the retirement village which was their home, even though she is still quite independent. Betty (Field) is a mathematician with an academic husband, and she is regarded as the most responsible member of the group. When the Patriots make the Superbowl in 2017 Lou is keen for the four women to travel to see the game and their idol fearing that it may be her last opportunity. Winning tickets in a competition, she organises for them to take a road trip to Texas, and the film follows their misadventures on the journey, including smuggling Maura out of the nursing home and imbibing illicit substances.

Director Kyle Martin, a veteran of TV work, makes his feature film debut here. His direction is nothing special, but he knows how to let his veteran stars shine. However, the four leads seem to be enjoying themselves immensely here. Fonda and Tomlin have a well-established rapport through their work on the TV series Grace & Frankie, and their easy-going chemistry elevates the material. The supporting cast includes 80s heartthrob Harry Hamlin (from LA Law) as a former Patriots great who is attracted the Trish’s feisty spirit; Billy Porter who plays a choreographer who enables the quartet to gain entry to the stadium by posing as members of Lady Gaga’s backup entourage; and Food Network star and celebrity chef Guy Fieri who contributes a cameo as himself hosting a spicy chicken wings eating competition.

And Tom Brady himself is also credited as a producer, plays himself. Although his name and presence will prove to be a drawcard for many, his somewhat wooden and stilted performance suggests that, unlike many other former athletes who have transitioned to screen stardom, his path after retirement may take a different route. And his presence has obviously ensured that the producers have had access to lots of NFL merchandising and Superbowl footage to give the material some sense of authenticity.

Greg King

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