By Lindsey Bahr | Associated Press
The on-screen duo of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin isn’t exactly new at the moment. Seven seasons of “Grace and Frankie” and the movie “80 for Brady” have perhaps spoiled us a little lately. And unfortunately, second-act movies featuring Hollywood legends have a hit-or-miss record (sorry “Queen Bees” and “Poms”).
But don’t let any of these facts dissuade you from experiencing “Moving On,” which was written and directed by Paul Weitz (“Grandma,” “About a Boy”) and opens in theaters this weekend. This is one of those rare films that balances a darkly comedic concept with authentic, emotional resonance, allowing Fonda, Tomlin and co-stars Malcolm McDowell and Richard Roundtree to really act, rather than being demeaned by cheap caricatures of elderly people.
It starts with a funeral. We never meet the deceased, but it does bring the main characters back together for the first time in a long time. Fonda stars as Claire, a devoted dog mom and grandmother to disinterested teenagers, who travels from Ohio to California to supposedly say goodbye to her college friend. But she has something else cooking. When she arrives and greets the new widower (McDowell), she doesn’t sympathize but says, “Howard, I’m going to kill you. I will do that this weekend.”
Something happened many years ago to Howard and Claire while his wife was out of town. It’s not explicitly explained until an emotional scene near the end, but you know what it is long before that. She only told Evvie (Tomlin). The police, she knew, would have just wondered why she was alone with her best friend’s husband in her house. And she knew that telling her friend would have ruined her marriage and possibly her life. So she did nothing.
Tomlin, as always, draws gold from every line – whether cheesy, throwaway, or well-written (and this photo has them all). His most memorable entrance involves stumbling into the chapel, directly onto the stage where Howard is delivering a eulogy for his wife of 51 years.
“Guys, this is Evelyn. Evelyn was Joyce’s college roommate, believe it or not,” he says.
“Why wouldn’t they believe it?” Tomlin speaks deadpan.
Everyone is lying to themselves and each other a little bit, and the death of someone close has given way to old secrets and truths bubbling to the surface. Evvie has a confession of her own to make, but perhaps best saved for her to reveal. Regardless of what it is, everyone’s pent-up, pent-up trauma is coming back full force.
There’s a natural uneasiness to any movie that tries to squeeze laughs out of revenge killings, but “Moving On” handles it better than most. It’s never too catty or silly and is ultimately about an event that effectively ruined Claire’s life. Roundtree (a lovely presence) plays her ex-husband Ralph—the incident also toppled their marriage.
Also, and maybe this is a flaw, but you never really believe that Claire is going to do it, even when she kind of is (there are several attempts). McDowell is great as this cantankerous, unrepentant idiot who has deluded himself into thinking that none of these things Evelyn or Claire are telling him could have any truth to them. It would be easy to play Howard as just plain evil, but McDowell keeps his feet on the ground and allows for some humanity nonetheless.
“Moving On” certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s sincerely trying to be something more than your standard octogenarian farce. You might even be surprised by your own emotional investment in this rather elegant film.
I hope performances like these remind screenwriters, directors and those who make the decision about what is done to give our legends good roles while we still have them. The actors are still in the game, and hopefully so are the audience.
2 1/2 stars out of 4
Assessment: R (for language)
Runtime: 85 minutes
#Fonda #Tomlin #anchors #funny #Moving