“Despite starring four of the most talented actresses in Hollywood history, 80 for Brady is a lackluster dramedy that would have been better left on the sidelines.”
- Rita Moreno and Sally Field's scene-stealing supporting performances
- Billy Porter's brief, memorable cameo
- Kyle Marvin's lifeless direction
- A cringeworthy third act
- Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda's lackluster performances
The new film 80 for Brady is a sporadically effective comedy that wants to have its cake and eat it too. The film expects its audience to take all of its moments of ham-fisted humor and drama with the same level of sincerity while never demonstrating that it has the self-awareness that it needs in order for its numerous gags to work. The dramedy has the good fortune of featuring four of the most revered actresses in cinema history, but neither they — nor the film itself — ever seem fully aware of just how absurd most of 80 for Brady’s climactic sequences are.
Consequently, the only reaction one can physically conjure throughout most of 80 for Brady’s 98-minute runtime is a painful cringe. That’s especially true during nearly every scene involving 80 for Brady’s titular football player and seven-time Super Bowl champion. There will, inevitably, be many more movies released throughout 2023 that ask too much of their viewers. However, it’s doubtful that any other major Hollywood release this year will go so far as to ask its audience to watch with a straight face as Tom Brady delivers a monologue while sitting across from a far-too-game Lily Tomlin.
80 for Brady follows Lou (Tomlin) and her three close friends — Trish (Jane Fonda), Maura (Rita Moreno), and Betty (Sally Field) — all of whom happen to be die-hard fans of both the New England Patriots and their longtime quarterback. The film’s opening scene catches up with Lou as she forces her friends to continue conforming to her Sunday Night Football superstitions. That night’s game then ends with 80 for Brady’s eponymous football champion earning his team its place in yet another Super Bowl match.
Rather than remaining content with watching the Super Bowl from the comfort of her home, though, Tomlin’s Lou decides that she and her friends should go see the championship game in person for once. Lou does, of course, have an ulterior motive for wanting so desperately to go see the game with her friends, but 80 for Brady, thankfully, doesn’t go too far out of its way to hide Lou’s motivation. That said, the film does still try unsuccessfully to milk her inevitable confession for all of its emotional worth.
Lou eventually gets her hands on enough Super Bowl tickets for her and her friends to make the trip to Houston together. From there, 80 for Brady spends most of its runtime following Lou, Maura, Trish, and Betty as they all experience more than their fair share of misadventures in the days and hours leading up to the Super Bowl. The film’s script, which was co-written by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, tries to fill it up with enough kooky comedic gags to make 80 for Brady a worthwhile experience. However, the film’s PG-13 rating ultimately prevents Haskins and Halpern from taking its few memorable comedic moments as far as they could go.
80 for Brady frequently struggles to find the right balance between comedy and drama. The film goes out of its way to try and give each of its four leads an arc, which results in it haphazardly bouncing from moments of absurd humor to intense drama and back again. By trying to pack so much into its fairly limited runtime, 80 for Brady fails to devote enough time to its dramatic and humorous moments in order for most of them to land as well as they should.
Despite their proven on-screen chemistry and talent, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin also feel strangely stranded and stiff in 80 for Brady. Their roles are simply too one-note for both performers, and director Kyle Marvin repeatedly asks Tomlin and Fonda to commit to moments of such unbelievable absurdity and saccharine drama that their characters gradually emerge as the film’s flattest and least interesting. Fortunately, while 80 for Brady doesn’t really give any of its four leads enough to do, both Field and Moreno do turn in a pair of fun, lighthearted performances as Betty and Maura, respectively.
Field, for her part, manages to make the most out of Betty’s frustratingly one-sided relationship with her forgetful husband, Mark (Bob Balaban). One scene, which sees Betty finally demand to be given the kind of independence she deserves, is the most engaging and effective dramatic moment that 80 for Brady has to offer, and that’s largely thanks to Field’s emotionally forthright performance. While the source of her biggest comedic moments is undeniably gimmicky as well, Field still somehow manages to bring an infectiously playful spirit to the scenes in which Betty participates in a spicy food contest and tries “negging” a much younger man.
No one in 80 for Brady has quite as many legitimately funny scenes as Moreno, though. The Oscar winner is perfectly cast as a character who’s just quirky and eccentric enough to still feel real and multidimensional. The sequence in which Moreno’s stoned Maura stumbles through the halls of a massive mansion is among the funniest scenes in 80 for Brady, and the same goes for the moments of confused banter she has with Billy Porter’s Gugu during a secret celebrity poker game.
Together, Moreno and Field prevent 80 for Brady from being a totally unwatchable misfire. However, their moments of genuine humor and drama are too far and few between to elevate the film above the level of mediocrity that it consistently inhabits. Even more importantly, their performances aren’t powerful enough to make one forget just how depressing it is to watch four of Hollywood’s greatest female performers be forced to participate in what is essentially a 98-minute piece of product placement.
To put it simply: Is this really the best that Hollywood has to offer actors like Field, Fonda, Tomlin, and Moreno?
80 for Brady is now playing in theaters.
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