Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin continue to capitalize on their unique chemistry and in the process, they appear to be having a ball. Fresh off their roles as octogenarians who attend a Super Bowl with two other pals, Rita Moreno and Sally Field in 80 FOR BRADY, now they star as former college friends who reunite at another chum’s funeral in MOVING ON.
Though billed as a comedy, writer/director Paul Weitz’ screenplay has a few serious turns. Fonda plays Claire, a divorced grandmother who travels from Ohio to California determined to kill Howard (Malcolm McDowell), the dead woman’s husband. In fact, she tells him the moment she sees him.
Claire has been waiting decades for revenge. Howard is responsible for destroying her marriage to Ralph (Richard Roundtree), whom she divorced after Howard sexually assaulted her. Claire never told Ralph her reason, but she did tell one person --- Evelyn (Tomlin).
When Evelyn shows up drunk at the funeral and interrupts Howard’s babbling eulogy, Claire informs her of her plan. They head off to a gun store, but it’s California and no state license --- no gun. So Evelyn comes up with the idea of borrowing her fellow assistant-living resident’s firearm --- only it’s not that kind of gun.
What ensues is a madcap effort to put Howard six feet under, while Claire rekindles her relationship with Ralph. When finally confronted with his terrible misdeeds, MOVING ON becomes the standard bearer for the Me Too movement. Howard denies any wrongdoing --- big surprise there --- and suggests Claire simply move on. He’s totally obnoxious and his dismissal of her claims is as infuriating as one would expect. By now, we all want to see him --- well, you get the picture.
Weitz’ script is a tad weak, at times. MOVING ON could/should have been so much better, especially given the cast. But Fonda and Tomlin are delightful showcasing their strong performances and true friendship. Tomlin provides much of the comic relief as Fonda’s sidekick in her endeavor to eliminate Howard.
She’s also fabulous when she befriends a young, effeminate boy visiting at her retirement home. She offers him a beautiful pair of clip-on earrings, which he can wear privately --- a small gesture so completely supportive and at the same time, heartbreaking.
The pairing of Fonda and Roundtree is genius --- they are superb together. They are certainly believable as a once-married couple. McDowell is well suited to play the loathsome widower. His umbrage is predictable, like most men caught in their own lies. Great casting choice.
MOVING ON isn’t the best film thus far in 2023, but it does give us a chance to spend more time with Jane and Lily. And anything that accomplishes that is a plus for me.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
Given the pairing of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, I was definitely expecting more. Unfortunately, MOVING ON is not the flat-out comedy I was anticipating. It’s more of a revenge dramedy and not a very good one at that. The movie expounds on how devastating a sexual assault is and the lifelong effects.
Most of the laughs come in the first 15 minutes when Claire (Fonda) and Evelyn (Tomlin) re-establish their past relationship. Their mutual friend Joyce has died. At her funeral, Claire threatens to kill Howard (Malcolm McDowell), the widower who we learn forced himself on Claire in the distant past, unknown to his now deceased wife. At first, Evelyn is perplexed at Claire’s planned actions, but we all know that won’t last.
Written and directed by Paul Weitz, MOVING ON would like to be a smash comedy. Alas, although some of the gags are mildly amusing overall, I get the impression that the original script may have come off funnier and more clever than the final cut. Fonda and Tomlin are always entertaining together, whether on the small screen or in a film. But in Weitz’ hands they are limited to the singular idea of how Howard should be murdered. In one scene at the wake, Claire grabs a huge carving knife from the kitchen intent on stabbing Howard then and there. But she is intercepted by another guest who needs the knife to slice a dessert, thus her plot is foiled --- not exactly a laugh-out-loud moment.
While the finale is quite ironic and unexpected it’s not enough to salvage the movie. That is not to demean the cast, which also includes a believable Richard Roundtree as Claire’s ex-husband, Ralph. It’s merely a case of the players doing what they can with a weak screenplay.
Opinion: Mild VOD