Synopsis: Two old friends reconnect at a funeral and decide to get revenge on the widower who messed with them decades before.
Stars: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Roundtree, Sarah Burns, Catherine Dent
Director: Paul Weitz
Running Length: 85 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: When something works, you stick with it, and obviously, the chemistry between stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin hasn’t waned since they (re)joined forces in 2015 for their popular Netflix show Grace and Frankie. Not long after that show finished its run in early 2022, the two were on to 80 for Brady, bringing Oscar winners Sally Field and Rita Moreno along for the ride. That film was the low-grade hit it was intended to be, especially among its target audience (matinee crowds). Those same viewers will likely be interested in what shenanigans Tomlin and Fonda are up to now.
It should be noted that Moving On is being marketed as a much different film than it is, and that’s too bad. To look at it, a paying customer might think it’s a comedy with an edgier premise allowing the duo to play to their usual schtick when in reality, it’s more of a darker drama the women approach with a far more serious stance. Of their collaborations from the past decade, this denotes their best work together (as flimsy though it may be) and, in the case of Tomlin, some of her most resonant screen representation in decades.
Attending the funeral of her best friend from college she hasn’t seen in years, Claire (Fonda, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding) has come to do more than grieve. She has a score to settle with Howard (Malcolm McDowell, Bombshell), the late woman’s husband, and she believes the only way to make him pay is to murder him. As she’s working out the finer details of her plan, Evelyn (Tomlin, Admission), another college friend, also appears with a revelation of her own. It’s from shared grief that Evelyn and Claire pick up where they left off years ago, alternatively planning Howard’s murder while evaluating their lives and missed opportunities.
Writer/director Paul Weitz has had quite the rollercoaster career. Starting by co-directing American Pie with his brother Chris in 1999 and recently directing Tomlin in her award-worthy performance in 2015’s Grandma, I’d be willing to bet he wrote Evelyn with her in mind. How else would it feel perfectly tailored to Tomlin’s strengths as both a wry comic and an actress able to draw deep emotion from unique line readings? Fonda’s role is a nice change of pace (but not a nice change of wig, I must say), even if it’s once again mainly centered around her relationships with men. It’s frustrating to see Fonda still playing roles that have her sitting around figuring out why her marriages don’t work out. Her scenes with an ex-husband (Richard Roundtree, Shaft) are pleasant enough but feel like distractions.
When the film takes wild shifts in tone (earning its R rating with some out-of-left-field blue dialogue), the viewer can feel like they are getting whiplash, and the last half of Moving On is hard to nail down. Weitz loses the thread when trying to tie everything together, but at least Fonda and Tomlin are there to do what they can with the pattern that’s been woven so far. It’s a nice image if overall incomplete in design.