The very first moments of Moving On are dull, but it doesn’t take long for us to get to the scene that should’ve opened the film: when Claire (Jane Fonda) arrives at her estranged best friend Joyce’s funeral, she tells her widower Howard (Malcolm McDowell), “I’m gonna kill you. Now that she’s gone, now that it can’t hurt her, I’m gonna kill you. I’m gonna do it this weekend,” before walking into the church. Claire and Joyce were college roommates back in the day, along with Evelyn, aka Evvie (Lily Tomlin), a lesbian cello player whose blunt and humorous entrance interrupts Howard’s bland eulogy.
“There’s a little thing called jail. Nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t wanna live there,” Evvie says when Claire asks her for help executing her plan to murder Howard. It’s implied that Howard raped Claire, something Evvie knew about at the time but was kept secret from Joyce because Claire didn’t want to ruin her best friend’s life. When asked if she’ll come with her to buy a gun, Evvie quips, “Sure, Scarface, sounds like fun.” Claire’s plans to kill Howard at the wake are quickly thwarted. She does bump into her ex-husband Ralph whose charming performance by Richard Roundtree makes you want to know more about his relationship with Claire — especially with a comment like, “Look at you two love birds, or love pterodactyls maybe,” from Evvie. Doesn’t that make you need to know more? It also becomes apparent that Evvie has her own reasons for revenge.
Marketed as a comedy, Moving On is a tonal rollercoaster. It mostly does a decent job balancing dark humour with its more serious and heartfelt moments, but sometimes the tonal shifts are jarring — often changing multiple times within a minute. Fonda acts with her staple sensibility, relating to emotional depth and light humour, while Tomlin delivers her signature, memorable one-liners. The film does admirably well in displaying how sexual assault can significantly impact various areas of a woman’s life and allows Claire to reconnect with those important to her.
Unfortunately, Moving On meanders a lot due to a weak script, allowing for too many uninteresting or at least incongruous scenes. Writer-director Paul Weitz, known for co-directing American Pie, has written much better films, such as the Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay About A Boy (co-written with Chris and Peter Hedges) and Grandma–a gem of a movie that also stars Tomlin. Moving On has a strong hook, but it’s not as exciting as you’d hope, though it does have its moments. Instead, it’s much more grounded for its ageing stars.
As the title suggests, Weitz’s screenplay is more about reflecting on the past and finding a way to move on. The film is very plot-driven but would’ve worked better as a more character-driven piece that explores the characters’ joint histories more to strengthen our emotional connection and create more engaging scenes with a better thread-through.
Moving On is saved primarily by its veteran cast, who make the most of the material they were given. Unsurprisingly, Fonda and Tomlin have natural chemistry due to their lifelong friendship and history of working together. Since collaborating in 9 to 5, the pair were more recently spotted in their seven-year-long stint as Grace and Frankie, followed by the newly-released screwball comedy 80 For Brady. It’s always joyful and endearing to see them together. Roundtree shines in a warm and touching supporting role, while McDowell plays the typical petulant asshole worthy of cheering on Claire’s plot for revenge. The entertaining and ironic ending makes calling this film a black comedy even more fitting. Moving On is worth a watch for the cast and the themes of ageing, trauma, and rekindled friendship.
Moving On opens in US cinemas on 17th March.
by Toni Stanger
Toni Stanger is a film and screenwriting graduate with a passion for cats, horror films and middle-aged actresses. Her favourite films include Gone Girl, Heathers, Scream and Excision. You can find her on Twitter and Letterboxd.
Categories: Anything and Everything, Films, Reviews
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