Film & Television

Tomlin and Fonda Reinvent the ‘Boston Marriage’ in ‘Grace and Frankie,’ Season 2

In season two, both Grace and Frankie explore new love interests. Grace reconnects with a sexy contractor (Sam Elliott) to whom she was attracted when she and Robert redid their kitchen years before. Frankie sets her sights on a gentleman farmer: “I recently ran into him at the farmer’s market when I was stalking him at the farmer’s market.” These storylines allow the show’s witty dialog to focus on everything from social media to post-menopausal sex to Alzheimer’s to . . .  well . . .  yams. Grace tries to use her business acumen to mentor a young bartender. Frankie mixes activism with entrepreneurialism and self-portraits of her vagina.

It all makes sense in context. I promise.

What stays with you through all of their misadventures is their refusal to be left behind, and their steady if often begrudging support of each other. One of the nice things about getting the “We’re gay” shock over with is that the second season can focus so much of its energy on women’s friendships with each other.

The writing is just wonderful, so clever and contemporary. Because the two women have both been thorough something no one else would understand, they rarely hold back. Frankie reaches over and pulls a whisker from Grace’s chin (they’re making wishes and Grace refuses to let Frankie touch her eyelashes). “How long have you known about that?” an appalled Grace demands, “I’ve told you. If you see something, say something!”

When a guilt-ridden Sol bemoans that his sleeping with Frankie was a “really stupid ‘fuck up’,” she doesn’t let him get away with it. “Not the twenty-year affair? Not all your lies? The one night with the woman you spent forty years with in the house we raised our children in, that was the fuck up? That’s fucked up.” Grace and Frankie’s willingness to say what they mean — and to make sure what they say is heard — is refreshing.

RELATED: Aging Out: Hollywood’s Problem with Women Over 40

Fonda and Tomlin, real-life friends ever since their work together on the early feminist comedy 9 to 5, appear to be having the time of their lives onscreen. They are such pros, and it’s wonderful that they have such a worthy vehicle. As Fonda explained on The Today Show recently, Grace and Frankie lets them “Play who we are, old ladies who survive.” She was joking (her comedic skills hold their own with Tomlin’s in the series) but she’s also making a point. There isn’t enough material for mature actresses. Onscreen, as in everyday life, women past a certain age are expected to fade into secondary roles. Neither Grace and Frankie, nor Fonda and Tomlin are putting up with that.

With its success on Netflix, one hopes that Grace and Frankie will create more opportunities for older actresses, female characters and their stories. And, until then, here’s good news. Season three is already being filmed.

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  • Toni Myers May 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    Many thanks for this delightful review of my favorite show on TV. Only problem I had was finishing season two, better than the first. The two women and their friends spoke to me directly. As did you.

  • Andrea May 10, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks Alex for this review. Season 1 was so sweet funny and relevant! Jane and Lily are wonderful together! I look forward to binge watching season2!