It’s always a pleasure to see stories about characters who are of a certain age.
Not every movie has to be about people under 50. There are plenty of stories to be told about characters in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and… just keep going! And two actors today who are actively working and being able to star in stories about folks in their golden years are Jane Fonda, 85, and Lily Tomlin, 83.
Fonda and Tomlin currently star on the hit Netflix TV show GRACE AND FRANKIE (2015-2022), and they also just appeared in the movie comedy 80 FOR BRADY (2023).
Actually, today’s movie MOVING ON (2022) was made before 80 FOR BRADY but was just released to theaters this past week. Simply put, MOVING ON is a winner of a movie, the type of small release that might not get noticed by audiences, but it’s one you definitely want to check out, both for the performances of Fonda and Tomlin, and for the story it tells.
MOVING ON is the story of Claire (Jane Fonda) who attends the funeral of her best friend from college, not only to pay her respects but because she has an agenda. When she approaches her friend’s widower Howard (Malcolm McDowell) she promptly tells him that now that her best friend and his wife is dead, she is going to kill him. And she is going to kill him because forty years earlier he did something unspeakable to her.
Also at the funeral is Evelyn (Lily Tomlin), who is not only Claire’s other best friend, but also was in love with the deceased. She agrees to help Claire murder Howard. Sort of. She agrees with Evelyn that Howard deserves to die, but as she constantly tells Claire, she doesn’t want to see her spend the rest of her life in prison.
While MOVING ON is marketed as a comedy, and it is a comedy, it’s not a silly goofy one. In other words, don’t expect slapstick shenanigans from Fonda and Tomlin as they plot a murder. It’s not that type of comedy. The humor comes from the situations, like when Evelyn accompanies Claire to help her buy a gun. It’s a very funny scene, but it’s not slapstick or goofy.
And the subject matter covered here is serious. There’s Evelyn’s secret love for their deceased best friend, there’s a subplot about a young boy who is questioning his sexuality, who befriends Evelyn. Then there’s the big reveal, what Howard did to Claire, an assault that ruined her life and her marriage. She never told anyone about it other than Evelyn. Of course, Howard says that he remembers it differently, that they were both drunk, and that it was a mutual thing.
But as I said, MOVING ON is a comedy, so while the subject matter is serious, the movie will make you laugh. This isn’t an easy combination to pull off, but the movie does it just fine. It also has a very satisfying ending. In fact, the whole movie is very satisfying.
Directed by Paul Weitz, who also wrote the screenplay, MOVING ON builds to a suspenseful yet comical conclusion, as Claire is hell bent on murdering Howard, and the audience wants to see her do it, but as Evelyn keeps saying, this will only land her in prison. The situations grow both more dramatic and funnier as the movie goes on, which as I said, is not easy to do. It’s a terrific script by Weitz. The scene with the flair gun is priceless.
Both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin continue to work at the top of their games. Fonda is superb throughout in a wide variety of scenes. Her best scene is when she finally confronts Howard and tells him exactly in painful detail what he did to her. And of course, Howard fires back that she’s delusional, that she wanted it as much as he did. It’s a painful scene, well-acted by two masters of the profession, Fonda and McDowell.
Fonda also enjoys some tender and romantic scenes with Richard Roundtree, who plays her ex-husband Ralph. Their date scenes, both at dinner and afterwards, are well done and really resonate. It was good to see Roundtree back on the big screen again, although it really hasn’t been that long, as he played Shaft, Sr. in the Shaft reboot SHAFT (2019). I enjoyed him more here in MOVING ON.
Lily Tomlin also knocks it out of the park as Evelyn. As always, she gets some of the movie’s best lines and handles them all well. She and Fonda obviously work very well together, and even though naysayers may call this just a variation of GRACE AND FRANKIE, I thought the characters they played here were different enough from Grace and Frankie that I didn’t find myself thinking all that much about the show while watching the movie.
And then there’s Malcom McDowell as Howard, and as you might expect, McDowell makes Howard sufficiently despicable. You won’t shed many tears at his final fate in this movie.
Sarah Burns also stands out as Howard’s daughter Allie.
There’s a lot to like about MOVING ON. From two phenomenal performances by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, to a well thought out and executed story that contains both dark drama and light comedy, a combination that is not easy to pull off, but writer/director Paul Weitz does just that. MOVING ON might be his best movie yet.
I loved it.
I give it a strong three and a half stars.
Four stars – Perfect, Top of the line
Three and a half stars- Excellent
Three stars – Very Good
Two and a half stars – Good
Two Stars – Fair
One and a half stars – Pretty Weak
One star- Poor
Zero stars – Awful