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edge staff writer


’80 for Brady’ saved by its stars (and not the one in the title)

February 6, 2023
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Full disclosure: I was pretty sure “80 for Brady” was either a joke I half-remembered from a podcast or a fragment of a fever dream. Imagine my surprise when the ads started running (and boy oh boy did they ever run) and it became clear that, neither humor nor hallucination, this movie was real and it was happening.

Four iconic actresses of a certain age – Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno – star in a story revolving around the quartet’s adventures in Houston as they attempt to watch their beloved hero Tom Brady win the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons.

(Seriously: read that sentence aloud and tell me that you sound anything other than crazy.)

I’ll confess that I wasn’t sure who this movie was for or why it even existed, but as it turns out, that “who” was a far larger group than I ever would have imagined. It’s a weird amalgam of interests. People like sports movies, but are those the same people who like movies starring women of a certain age? You wouldn’t think so, but here we are. You see, lots of people went to see it opening weekend. LOTS. Not “Avatar 2” lots, but enough to climb to the top of the box office.

As for the movie itself? Honestly, it could have been worse. SHOULD have been worse, frankly, except that the filmmakers benefitted from an incredibly talented central cast that elevated a too-thin concept and a below-average script into something genuinely pleasant to watch. Utterly lightweight and disposable, but not a terrible way to spend a couple of hours – particularly if you’re a fan of these four women and/or of reliving Super Bowl LI.

It all takes place in the early days of 2017. Lou (Lily Tomlin) has been hosting her friends at her house to watch the New England Patriots play for years. There’s the flirtatious Trish (Jane Fonda) who rushes into relationships and spends her time writing erotic fan fiction involving Rob Gronkowski. There’s retired math professor Betty (Sally Field), who has spent the better part of her life propping up the career of her husband and fellow math professor Mark (Bob Balaban). And there’s Maura (Rita Moreno), whose recent loss of her husband has left her somewhat adrift.

And they all love Tom Brady. Love him to the point of committing to a gameday superstition involving everyone’s position at kickoff. Every week they watch, a tradition whose sad origins belie the joyful experience that it has become.

During the 2017 postseason, a local cable show for Pats fans offers up a contest – the best story about fandom wins tickets to Super Bowl LI. Four seats for Patriots/Falcons. And guess who winds up with tickets in hand?

Our intrepid quartet make their way to Houston, overcoming a few minor obstacles along the way. And from there, we watch as assorted NFL and NFL-adjacent vignettes play out. Trish discovers that she has far more of a literary following than she ever knew … and makes the acquaintance of a former football star to boot. Betty winds up in a hot wing eating contest hosted by Guy Fieri. Maura winds up in a high-stakes gambling situation while surrounded by celebrities.

Oh, and Lou talks to Tom Brady. Well … he talks to her, anyway, through whatever representation of him happens to be handy. Video images, bobbleheads, you name it – Tom talks to her. It’s as weird as you think it is.

Of course, it can’t be that easy. And when circumstances threaten to derail their chance to watch the big game, these ladies have to rely on their wits – and each other – to make sure that they get the proper ending to their journey. And if you thought you knew how the Patriots managed to pull off their comeback from down 28-3, well … this movie has other ideas.

Watching “80 for Brady” was an odd experience. I genuinely don’t know if I’ve sat in a movie theater with as varied an age range as this one; it really ran the gamut, from teenagers to octogenarians and everyone in-between. It was a real cross-section of the area demographic – young, old, men, women – and it was full. No surprise, I suppose, living as I do in Patriots territory, but interesting nonetheless.

As for the movie itself? Not quite as interesting.

Now, the movie’s a reasonably well-made one, as far as thinly veiled pro sports propaganda goes. Director Kyle Marvin has done good work in constructing the film, both in terms of the narrative pieces and the interweaving of actual game footage. Structurally, the movie is fine.

Unfortunately, the narrative leaves a lot to be desired. The truth is that there’s just not a whole lot to this story, even when it has been pretty clearly fluffed up to meet a baseline runtime. The vignettes are just that, with relatively little cohesion between them beyond basic “Look, they’re friends!” and “Football!” connective tissue. There’s nothing much as far as character depth and the like.

(Note: “80 for Brady” is ostensibly inspired by a true story, but that “inspired” is doing a LOT of heavy lifting.)

This movie should have been out-and-out bad. The fact that it manages to ascend to pleasant-enough status is due almost entirely to its central foursome. This is a collection of incredibly talented women who are giving their all – and their all is significant. I could go into an extended performance breakdown here, but instead, I’m going to use a bit of shorthand that should give you all the information that you need.

Lily Tomlin – Dorothy

Jane Fonda – Blanche

Sally Field – Rose

Rita Moreno – Sophia

It’s not one-to-one, but it’s close enough. Imagine those energies in this story, and you’re pretty much there.

There are some OK supporting performances and a ton of celebrity cameos, but nothing really worth writing home about. Actually, that’s not entirely true; it’s definitely worth noting how terrible Tom Brady is in this. He is a staggeringly bad actor, a fact brought home by a literal laugh-out-loud scene late in the film that I won’t spoil. Trust me, you’ll recognize it. Even Gronk comes off better, which … I mean … good lord.

“80 for Brady” isn’t a very good movie. It is a thinly-plotted work intended to promote and celebrate the NFL in general and Tom Brady in particular. However, the work being done by the talented central cast makes the movie watchable, which is far better than my fever dreams and I would ever have anticipated.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 06 February 2023 12:05

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