How I Watched Lucky Grandma
or, Hey All, My Grandma’s in a Movie
by Travis Hedge Coke
The 2019 Sasie Sealy movie, Lucky Grandma, passed me by on its release.
I knew Sealy from her American Girl Doll movie, Ivy & Julie 1976 – A Happy Balance, and stumbled onto Lucky Grandma researching that for a friend, in 2021.
The stills I saw of lead actor, Tsai Chin (You Only Live Twice; Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) struck me with almost every emotion. From the clothes to the hair to the hands and stare, this was my grandma. They made a movie about my grandma.
This freaked me out.
Let us be clear, Tsai Chin does not look like my grandma. She is in makeup and costume, she is assuming body language and in character. That character looks like my grandma, moves like my grandma, talks like my grandma.
It is super weird.
It is fantastic. I never get to see my grandma. I do not get to see any of my grandparents, not really, unless it is Graham Greene and that is a little too much just like, “Hi, Graham Greene!”
And, Chin’s character is also not my grandma. My grandma never got embroiled in complicated flexes between rival criminal enterprises and she did not hit casinos. A movie is a movie. Is a movie.
The title Grandma is a lot of people’s grandma, and a lot of Americans’ grandma.
My grandma had trouble reading a room. In part due to her schizophrenia, she had trouble knowing when to prevaricate for politeness, and she often told jokes specifically because they were jokes. Her last joke to her neighbors, at the clubhouse of the trailer park she and her husband had retired to, was a joke about Jesus. To a table of mostly Catholics, elderly, she told them the one where Jesus goes up to the hotel clerk and hands him three nails.
“Can you put me up for the night?”
Lucky Grandma is an amazing movie. Funny, sharp, intense; full in every way.
But, I had to watch it three times to not just see my grandma.