Writer/director Paul Weitz (About A Boy) reteams with his Grandma star Lily Tomlin for another comedy that steers toward the dramatic and dark far more than it elicits laughs.
Joining Tomlin is her new onscreen constant, Jane Fonda, where the pair play pretty much toned-down versions of their Grace and Frankie characters. Initially, the plot of Moving On feels high concept. A woman (Tomlin) arrives at the funeral of one of her best friends only to tell the deceased’s widow (Malcolm McDowell) she’s going to kill him.
The whys and hows are kept secret for a bit while we navigate what the reason for her declaration is. And as funny as it might seem to see two ladies of a certain age buying guns and plotting a murder, the reasons behind it all are pretty dark. This isn’t a screwball Fonda/Tomlin movie. This is a movie truly about moving on and attempting to put a traumatic past behind you.,
Claire (Fonda) is pretty dead set on pulling her murder off, even if that means she goes to jail. To her, the act is worth the pain she’s suffered. Evelyn (Tomlin) is going along for the ride partly because she knows what a prick the guy (McDowell) was. Plus she’s getting older, and an adventure allows her to forget about that. At least temporarily.
There are a few themes at work here. One is about getting over a difficult past, not only concerning the person Claire wants to kill, but also moving on (or not) from a long-lost love she runs into again (Richard Roundtree).
For Evelyn, she must face getting older and coming to terms with her own grumbly personality that has pushed her away from others at the Assisted Living Facility she lives at (and more.) She’s the gal that would rather take public transportation than deal with people she doesn’t see eye to eye with.
She does develop a friendship with a little boy who comes to the facility to see his grandfather. The kid – clearly discovering his gender/sexual identity – is fully accepted by Evelyn, a woman who has fully accepted her own sexual identity for decades. It’s a touching sub-plot, but what it really gets us thematically is questionable.
At less than 90 minutes, the film seems like an episode of a TV show that Tomlin and Fonda have reunited for. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but it doesn’t have enough meat to make it land with any weight.
Fonda is terrific here, navigating the subtle humor of the situation (she threatens the guy with a flare gun) but also dealing with the reasons she wants him dead. It’s moving, and it’s been a while since we’ve seen Fonda really show us her deep, dramatic chops.
Tomlin is adorable while still playing a variation on characters she’s done before. Both actresses tone down their comedy stylings to make a more grounded dramedy from out-there material.
This is one of those movies that you enjoy because you love the cast. The story isn’t going to stay with you forever, but it’s always a treat to see these ladies giving it their all on screen.