In 2015, when Netflix launched Grace and Frankie it was pre #metoo days when talking about old age was taboo. Many people were surprised by what seemed to be nostalgia for the 1980 hit, 9 to 5, in which Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton with humor showed what happened with bullying and sexual harassment, among other topics many decades ahead. At that time, one of the rare ways that Hollywood accepted to touch on such sensitive subjects was with what they thought was “comedy”. That’s right, women exposing toxic machismo, the disparity in wages and working conditions, in addition to harassment, could only be a joke.
Still, the film was an astronomical success and brought together activist friends Lily and Jane for the first time on screen. They reunited in the series written by Marta Kauffman (Friends) and Howard J. Morris, which lightly approached serious themes of what it is like to start life over after 70 years: Grace and Frankie.
The series is about the unlikely friendship of Grace Hanson (Jane Fonda), a sharp-tongued retired cosmetics mogul, and Frankie Bergstein (Lily Tomlin), a quirky art teacher. The two loathe each other but tolerate each other socially because their longtime husbands Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston) are both successful divorce attorneys and partners in an office in San Diego, California. However, the lives of the two are turned upside down when the husbands reveal that they are in love with each other and announce that they have decided to get married. At almost 80 years old, the two women have to start over and deal with the fact that in the last 20 years they were being betrayed. To make matters worse, the children enter what would be a drama, but ends up in comedy.
Grace and Frankie, through different circumstances, are forced to live together and experience a series of wacky adventures as they navigate family dramas, medical scares, business ventures, and romantic turmoil. The great love story, however, is between the two, who become best friends and finally learn to love as they are.
The series hasn’t always been unanimous, but I’ve always been a die-hard fan. The chemistry of the cast, the topics that were approached with intelligence, and the talent of the iconic duo are some of the secrets of success. The series is currently the longest-running series on the platform, which is ironic with a cast whose average age at debut was 75 years old and end up approaching 90.
Yes, from season 4 onwards some of the plots sounded repetitive, but what is life if not a series of repetitions until we learn our lesson? The entry of Madame Eslbeth made me laugh and cry since her predictions were not wrong. The series’ “death” was treated with the same wit as its debut, with a Dolly Parton cameo to delight fans and hope for a spin-off with Grace’s daughters, especially Brianna (June Diane Raphael).
I will miss these two, but I am grateful to Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin for giving this inspiration to so many generations of women. Icons are just like that…