When I initially learned that Paramount’s 80 for Brady was to be a saga about aging actresses, my thoughts immediately gravitated toward another Paramount classic, the 1950 noir epic Sunset Boulevard. That iconic film, a stern and airless saga that charted the decline and fall of Norma Desmond (played by Gloria Swanson), was intense and notoriously laughless. Then, magically, my thoughts levitated when I learned that 80 for Brady was to feature not one but four film divas—Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Rita Moreno, and Lily Tomlin. I knew right away this was to be no Sunset Boulevard.
80 for Brady is a charmer of a movie about “girls gone rogue” in ways that Norma Desmond could never have fathomed. I was tempted to describe the new film as a “last hurrah for the Boomer generation” until I realized that only Sally Field is a true Boomer. At 76, she’s a relative infant compared with her co-stars, the 83-year old Tomlin, the 85-year-old Fonda, and the 92-year-old Moreno.
Though their median age is nearly five times the age of consent, this lively quartet rocks—and I don’t mean in rocking chairs. 80 for Brady is an absolute delight of a movie, a frothy effervescent feature that celebrates the power and determination of aging women to take control of their destiny.
Based on a true story, the fast-paced script by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern narrates the saga of four diehard football fans intent on meeting their idol, Patriots pigskinner Tom Brady, at Superbowl LI in Houston. The odyssey begins when one of the gals, Lou (Lily Tomlin) vows to make the journey after receiving a negative medical diagnosis. She claims to have won four tickets in a radio contest, though she later reveals she’d bought them herself in order to involve her friends in the adventure. In Houston, Betty (Sally Field) loses the tickets while participating in a hot-wings-eating contest, forcing all four of the women to revert to madcap antics to retrieve them, including high-stakes gambling and romantic interludes with some of the younger men they meet.
The tickets are eventually found, but they prove counterfeit. This only propels the quartet into even more extreme behavior, including breaking into the team’s play-by-play booth where they commandeer the microphones to deliver personal, morale-boosting messages directly to Tom Brady on the field. Their supportive ploy inspires the athlete to deliver a fiery performance in the last quarter of the game, clinching Super Bowl LI with a comeback win for the Patriots.
What is especially remarkable about 80 for Brady is the seamless ensemble effect presented by the foursome. There are no prima donnas here: each of the four leading actors is obviously encouraged by director Kyle Marvin to “do her own thing,” allowing audiences to enjoy the uniqueness of each of the women, complete with quirks and foibles. Or, in the producers’ own words: “Four true legends of the screen join forces as gutsy ringleader Lou (Lily Tomlin), glam, feisty Trish (Jane Fonda), adventurous, tireless Maura (Rita Moreno), and smart, down-to-earth Betty (Sally Field)
In a world where major-league football is often associated with toxic masculinity—domestic abuse incidents typically spike on Super Bowl Sunday—it is a blessing to watch a genuinely inspirational film like 80 for Brady, which celebrates both the agency of women and the softer side of football heroes.
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Here’s the trailer of the film.