Do Australians care about Tom Brady? If we can get any indication from the Super Bowl viewing parties at, well, pretty much every establishment that serves food or drink in every major Australian city, the answer is probably “yes.” The greatest quarterback of all time, and arguably the greatest American football player of all time, has dominated the last two decades of NFL coverage, even at the end of his career when he’s done the “I’m retired, no I’m not retired” dance that sports legends always do when they can’t bear to hang ‘em up.


It isn’t necessary to have a real stake in Brady – either cheering him or hoping he falls flat on his face – to see 80 for Brady. Even though his name comes out of someone’s lips approximately every four minutes, the athlete himself doesn’t try to do too much in the movie, appearing only a few times as a vision to Lily Tomlin’s character and then once in a competently performed scene as his actual self. The film is loosely based on a real story, though we should assume considerable dramatic license has been taken.

The real reason to see the movie is the 83-year-old Tomlin and her three co-stars, who play a quartet of octogenarians wanting to attend the Super Bowl in person before it’s too late – either for Brady or for them. And the actresses themselves are all 80+ years old, all except 76-year-old Sally Field, whose character also plays the role of complaining about getting aged up to be included in their group. Thanks to fitness and plastic surgery, 85-year-old Jane Fonda looks like she’s about 58, and the oldest of the group – Rita Moreno – is, impossible as it may seem, 91 years old, though has not lost a step in her spunk or comedic timing.

The movie around them is nothing to write home about from either a filmmaking or script standpoint, though the script has enough jokes to produce legitimate laughs, especially as delivered by four actresses whom Hollywood, by its own standards, should have put out to pasture ages ago.

The New England-based friends became a fan of New England Patriot Tom Brady when he took over for the injured starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the 2001 season, and improbably led this team to the franchise’s first championship. For the next 15 years they’ve continued wearing their Brady jerseys while watching every game in one of their living rooms, and engaging in whatever superstitions they’ve felt will spur him on toward victory. As just one example, Field’s character was perched on a ladder during one momentous victory, so now is required to take up that position for every game. The bowl of potato chips they spilled during that game is also considered an essential recurring component to a Patriot victory.


The Patriots are charging toward the Super Bowl again in the 2016 season, which would be Brady’s fifth championship, if he can complete the run. The women decide now is the time to try to score tickets to the Houston event, and they write a good enough story to win four tickets in a local radio show contest. Thus begins a trip in which the women will flirt with famous people (sometimes literally) and attempt not to lose their tickets before the big game, all while addressing their own issues: a too-needy husband, a recently deceased husband, a tendency to get into romantic trouble, and a possible cancer diagnosis.

When Kyle Marvin’s film was released in the U.S. three months ago, it was met with some pretty savage reviews. Depending on what you’re looking for from 80 for Brady, that might be an appropriate response to the film. If you’re judging the movie by the standards of the great sports movies or disease movies or some other subgenre that can be found in here, you’re doing it wrong. This is a fun trifle, nothing more – and can be really fun at times.


With performers of a certain age, the older you get, the less likely you are to remind your fans of what made you such a pleasure to watch on screen. We’re not talking looks here, but if we were, these four women would all check out fine on that front, having either aged gracefully (particularly in the case of Field) or avoided the worst possible outcomes of plastic surgery. No, what really happens after 80 is that you lose your instincts, coming across more as a senior citizen being propped in front of the camera as a sign of respect than a credible performer who can still do the job.

It’s lovely, then, to see each of these women still in fighting spirit, still able to play the range of emotions required of them, and still capable of their signature characteristics. We shouldn’t still be calling Sally Field adorable three quarters of a century into her life, or if so, it should be a sort of pejorative reserved for someone we pity because she’s so old. No, Field still has her prime klutzy charm, the one that made us like her – really really like her. Her participation in a spicy wings eating contest is a particular highlight. As just one other example, Tomlin’s ability to mutter an acerbic observation is about the same as she would have given us in the 1970s.


Putting these four women through a cute story of friendship and brushes with NFL greatness – the film had the heavy cooperation of the NFL in terms of using footage and league trademarks – turns out to be a winning choice, perhaps especially if you barrack for Brady and the Patriots but possibly even if you don’t. And if you came in to 80 for Brady thinking it was going to get nominated for an Oscar, well then, you’re really doing it wrong.


80 for Brady is currently playing in cinemas.

7 / 10