The coastal granny aesthetic is a very recent phenomenon. Characterized by comfort, coastal living and joy, it is in many ways an all-encompassing aesthetic, encompassing movies, TV and fashion. Along with emphasizing comfort, the coastal granny aesthetic also emphasizes sophistication, but not in an ostentatious way.
Luckily for those who find something appealing in this approach, there are a number of films, particularly from the 1990s and 2000s, which perfectly capture this particular approach to life and cinema, immersing the viewer in a world of rich, textured comfort.
Mama Mia! (2008)
It’s hard to deny there’s something truly magical about the movie Mama Mia!, one of the best musicals of the 2000s. Based on the musical of the same name and featuring some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Meryl Streep, it is very much in the tradition of coastal grandmothers . In addition to starring Streep (an avatar of the coastal grandmother), it’s also a film that emphasizes joy and fun, both in its musical numbers and in its celebration of the bond between a mother and her daughter.
Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
The 2000s were something of a golden age for romantic comedy, and there are plenty of fine examples of the genre from the decade. One of the best examples, and one of the most paradigmatic, of the coastal grandmother aesthetic is something must give, which stars Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson as two old people who manage to fall in love, despite being complete opposites. In perfect coastal granny style, this is a film about the pleasures of beach life, as most of the action takes place in the Hamptons.
Julia and Julia (2009)
Amy Adams has starred in many great movies, and there’s no doubt that Julia and Julia is one of his finest. Based on the memoir of the same name, it follows her character as she recreates the recipes of celebrity chef Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep). Both Adams and Streep’s performances are spot-on – the latter manages to almost inhabit Child’s core self – and its emphasis on the power of food is sure to please anyone who loves that particular aspect of the grandma’s aesthetic. -coastal mother.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
A key aspect of the Coastal Grandma is her emphasis on self-searching and finding new ways to enjoy the world and what it has to offer. All this is very much offered in Under the Tuscan sun.
Like many other coastal grandmother movies, it’s based on a memoir of the same name, and in this case centers on a woman who buys a villa in Tuscany after discovering her husband’s adultery. It’s a warm, well-acted film that reminds the viewer to take the time to savor the simple joys in life.
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Most of the movies that best encapsulate the coastal grandmother aesthetic tend to be romantic in nature, and Nights in Rodanthe is no exception. In this case, it focuses on the powerful romance between Diane Lane’s Adrienne Willis and Richard Gere’s Dr. Paul Flanner. While some plot elements might seem contrived, especially from a 2022 perspective, the film still manages to enchant, and there’s undeniable chemistry between Gere and Lane.
The First Wives Club (1996)
Many stars are associated with the coastal grandmother aesthetic, but none more so than Diane Keaton. In this film, she is joined by Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler, who team up to fight back against their ex-husbands. There is an undeniable chemistry between the three protagonists, who emerge as women determined to take charge of their own destiny and who, over the course of the film, form an extraordinary friendship between them. And, just as important, the film also allows the women to show off their considerable comedic talents.
A key aspect of the coastal granny aesthetic is the focus on food and the power of cooking to change her life. That’s what makes Chocolate such a perfect example of the genre, focusing as it does on a mysterious chocolatier who comes to a remote French village and upends her peaceful life, upsetting the governor in the process.
Juliette Binoche delivers a nuanced and suitably silky performance, and she’s joined by other great actors, including Judi Dench (herself an avatar of the coastal grandmother aesthetic).
Tea with Mussolini (1999)
At first glance, it might seem strange to think that a film set in Italy during the rise of Mussolini would fit into the aesthetic of the coastal grandmother. Nevertheless, it does so precisely because it focuses so intensely on the lives and desires of the women who make up the expatriate community in Italy. To add to his coastal grandmother aesthetic, he included in his cast many who would come to identify with him, including Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.
Girls Calendar (2003)
Although many films that appeal to the coastal grandmother aesthetic are American in origin, Girls Calendar is an exception, taking place like in the UK. Directed by Helen Mirren (in one of her best roles), it centers on a group of women who set out to raise money for cancer research by creating a nude calendar. It has an understated sense of humor that’s more enjoyable than the mere hilarity of laughing out loud, and there’s an undeniable warmth and generosity that’s further enhanced by its extraordinary cast.
The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold (2011)
As its title suggests, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel takes place in a hotel in India where a number of British pensioners go, believing it to be a posh retirement home. Although things don’t quite go as they planned, they quickly bond with each other, even as they all have to deal with the secrets of their lives. Like so many other coastal grandmother films, it has a warmth and tenderness of spirit, and it also features terrific performances from Judi Dench and Penelope Wilton.
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