“80 for Brady,” inspired by said real-life set of Patriot fans, follows a fearsome foursome of octogenarians (well, one’s in her 70’s) who gather together to support their favorite football team, the New England Patriots, and their favorite player, Tom Brady. The ritual started 16 years prior when they gathered at the home of Lou (Lily Tomlin) during a key moment in her fight against cancer. Lou and her friends — widower Maura (Rita Moreno), romance author Trish (Jane Fonda), and the brilliant Betty (Sally Field) — enter a contest to win tickets to see the Patriots at the Super Bowl, and (unsurprisingly) shenanigans ensue.
Tomlin is solid as the film’s emotional center and the driver behind the Super Bowl trek. She certainly does enough to land the character’s journey, though an emotional moment at the end doesn’t quite rise above the slightly too-saccharine situation. Fonda is strong in what she’s given as the charismatic Trish, though her character doesn’t have many of the film’s more memorable moments. Moreno brings a lot of heart to Maura, and her comedic timing centers one of the film’s most memorable sequences (think a TV food aficionado with spiky, bleached hair). The under-sung hero of the film, however, is Sally Field, who consistently brings a strong performance and great comedic timing, shining throughout and grounding one of the group’s most entertaining subplots.
The unfortunate thing is that a lot of the film’s hands are underplayed in ways that erode emotional impact. Sure, it’s a comedy, and a fairly lighthearted one at that. At the same time, the reality of cancer diagnoses are part of the film’s narrative … why not develop them more, and give such skilled actresses time to take these moments seriously? Additionally, there are a number of talented comedic performers whose efforts are similarly shortchanged, not quite given enough to do nor enough time to do it. It’s an ensemble comedy that doesn’t quite know how to use entire sections of its ensemble, making for serious wasted potential. At the same time, from a performance standpoint watching four actresses of such caliber is a treat, and they play off each other expectedly well.