Good timing! 80 For Brady is opening the week before the Super Bowl but it’s also opening in the thick of Oscar season, the Super Bowl for movie lovers. Making it feel yet more timely is the fact that its main quartet consists entirely of actresses with Oscar pedigree. As unlikely as it is that this’ll make any dent next year at this time, 80 For Brady is still a winning comedy…
Thankfully, 80 For Brady is not another case of ‘all the funny bits are in the trailer’. There’s plenty more laughs to be found as these four old friends go on a trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI. Inevitable hijinks ensue. At its core lies a pretty profound message about living for the moment while you can and the fact that friends can become family. Years ago when Lou (Lily Tomlin) was undergoing chemotherapy her three best friends Trish (Jane Fonda), Maura (Rita Moreno) and Betty (Sally Field) came over to spend time with her and they watched a Patriots game. That night ended up shaping their lives and bringing them ever closer as watching Sunday Football became a tradition. Not knowing if this Super Bowl will be the last for dreamy quarterback Tom Brady, or if they’ll ever have another chance to go given their age they hit the road to make special memories together at the game.
The screenplay by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern fulfills the ensemble comedy cardinal rule. Each member of the group is given their own distinct characterization. As one can imagine, the actresses themselves play such roles with comic excellence. If I were to pick an MVP from the quartet, it’d be Sally Field as Betty, the brainy straight man of the group. Always deemed ‘the responsible one ‘by her friends, Betty tries living up to her title while still proving she can loosen up and have a good time. Almost fighting Field for the MVP title is Lily Tomlin as Lou, the film’s dramatic crux. Meanwhile, Jane Fonda amusingly riffs on her Book Club persona as Trish, a novelist who’s a tad afraid of commitment. Rounding out the quartet is the always-magnetic Rita Moreno as Maura, a retiree with a hidden talent for gambling.
Moreno’s affecting ramport with Glynn Turman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), who plays Maura’s love interest Mickey, allows more resonance. Although Mickey is sad about Maura going on a big adventure without him, he’s supportive that she’s fulfilling her own dreams. A late scene-stealing arrival is the reliable Billy Porter as Gugu, a halftime show performer whom the women encounter on their trip.
Even with its game performers and heartfelt storyline, one can still guess where 80 For Brady will go every step of the way right down to the results of the real-life Super Bowl match. That being said, it is exactly the escapist buddy comedy that those involved surely intended it to be. Not one to change the face of comedy or stake an early claim to the Oscar race (though we could already pencil in the catchy Diane Warren tune), it’s content to be an crowd pleaser. Fans of the actresses and those looking to escape reality for 100 minutes will be fully amused. For that reason, 80 For Brady scores a touchdown. B