'Moving On' has flaws but purpose
- Written by Martha K. Baker
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin started working together in "9 to 5" in 1980 and continued for seven years in "Grace and Frankie." "Moving On," their latest effort, earns a solid B for effort. Its flaws as a tragi-comedy are visible, but its stars, script, and especially its purposes make it worthy. The film is about moving on after a death -- or not.
A woman dies. Joyce was loved by family and friends. Those friends include Claire (Fonda), living in Ohio, and Evelyn (Tomlin), unhappy in assisted living in California. After years apart, the old friends meet at Joyce's funeral. Mourners offer condolences to her widower, Howard, played dutifully by Malcolm McDowell. Claire says to him, "I'm going to kill you." Wait, what? Wait, why?
She spends time picking a weapon, including a trip to the kitchen to secure a knife and a trip to a gun store, where her purchase is turned down by California law. She enlists Evie to abet her intention, but Evelyn has her own secret. She lets that loose at Joyce's wake (held oddly after the funeral). Meanwhile, Claire holds on to her vengeance against Howard until she explodes. Also, meanwhile, she reconnects with an old husband of her own, played suavely by Richard Roundtree.
Tomlin and Fonda, actors, who through their pairing, may be the latest version of Tracey and Hepburn, that is, appealing to an audience who wants to see them bantering. The duo works well as the traumatized Claire and the sardonic Evelyn. When Evelyn finally agrees to help Claire kill Howard, she explains her change of mind with, "My other murder was cancelled." Their roles enforce the idea that sisterhood is powerful and that old women bring their remarkable histories to the end times.
Their work and storylines strengthen this film. Its flattening flaws are embedded in the script by Paul Weitz, who also wrote the screenplays for "Bel Canto" and "Fatherhood." When "Moving On" does not move on, its pace feels more pedestrian than like a good stream. Weitz's script causes the movie to slow to sludge as all the knotted threads are untied under his direction. There, among other good points, he highlights Claire's white hair and face as she sits in a pew mourning her friend.
"Moving On" has many purposes, and those are honorable storylines about older women. As played by Tomlin and Fonda, these old women call for understanding and sympathy as they plot revenge.