The Grandmothers Murder Club
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because guns don’t kill people. Grandmothers with guns kill people.
By Eugene S. Robinson
The Oscars come, the Oscars go, and along with them, discussions about inclusion and inclusiveness. Maybe midyear, The Hollywood Reporter does a roundtable about who gets cast and by whom, and while this is happening? Someone just comes along and does it without making a big deal about having done it.
“Yeah, so we got Florence Henderson and Pam Grier to agree to be in it, which was a big deal for us,” director Srikant Chellappa says about a fact that is also a big deal for anyone over 40 who ever owned a TV. Because when you’re talking about the pairing of Henderson — America’s Mom, the distaff head of the irrepressible band of cutups called The Brady Bunch — and Grier — star of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, cast mostly on the supersexy strength of the run of blaxploitation flicks that saw her shoot her way through the ’70s — the casting is cutting all kinds of ways to Sunday.
Older actresses who once seemed to be polar opposites playing action parts in a dark comedy that’s equal parts Coen Brothers and Arsenic and Old Lace and has them killing cash-carrying con men? We’re in.
I started thinking, ‘What if all of those grandmothers were murderers and nobody knew anything about it?’
And indeed Tarantino codified it in a cool way when he took the seemingly past-his-prime John Travolta and huffed big breaths of life back into a career that was all but dead with a prime spot in Pulp Fiction. For Chellappa, though, an indie filmmaker who hails from New Delhi and now lives well off the beaten media path in St. Louis, it was less about some sort of calculation and much more about the right people for the right roles.
“I was having dinner with my mother-in-law and some of her friends,” Chellappa says while wolfing down a late breakfast. “And later, when I was leaving, I started thinking, ‘What if all of those grandmothers were murderers and nobody knew anything about it?’ ” Though we’re unsure what this says about his relationship with his in-laws, we know the screenplay that crawled out of his musings two weeks later couldn’t have starred Jennifer Lawrence. And Chellappa, whose past films (as a cowriter or producer) have been distributed in more than 60 countries, picked up by 20th Century Fox and broadcast on Showtime and Netflix, figured it couldn’t hurt to ask Henderson and Grier.
With principal production wrapped, in January Chellappa leapt into the Kickstarter breach, partly to get his hands on cash to complete postproduction and close out the music rights and partly just to do full-on guerrilla marketing, and asked for $20,000. Two months later, with $20,159 in pocket, Chellappa is gallivanting around town with a trailer that he’s hoping will get picked up for distribution before the year is out.
“Getting the movie made, even as hard as it is, is really just the tip,” says indie L.A. writer and filmmaker Mike Horelick, whose claim to fame was a movie called Mob Queen, about a Mafia boss and his transgender girlfriend that starred a gang of guys from The Sopranos. “But he’s got so many ways to distribute now, this could easily kill without him touching foot at a studio.”
“I just wanted to do something dark and funny, and working with Florence and Pam, well, I couldn’t have asked for much more,” Chellappa says. And after watching the highly droll trailer three times straight, we must widely concur.