Directed by: Paul Weitz
Distributed by: Roadside Attraction
Written by Patrick Hao
Sometimes a movie can be good because of its messiness. This is exactly the case with Paul Weitz’s “Moving On,” a tonal mess of a film that gets by because of the truisms underneath its sentimentality. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s movie output of late has been light trifles for the octogenarian crowds. Entertaining trifles but knowingly dumb as rocks. “Moving On” is almost a riff of “9 to 5” with a down-to-earth emotional core that allows Fonda and Tomlin to tap into a real character for the first time since “Grace and Frankie” ended.
Fonda plays straight-laced Claire, who attends the funeral of her friend, Joyce. Upon her arrival, she tells Joyce’s husband, Howard (Malcolm McDowell) with a straight face, that she is going to kill him. On the other end of the aisle is Evvie (Tomlin), the third in the trio of Claire and Joyce’s friendship. She is a retired musician whose sarcasm is a shield for her mortality. She also has hatred for Howard, but not one that generates an urge to murder.
Claire confides in Evvie that the reason for wanting to murder Howard is because Howard had raped her, in the progress psychologically harming her and ruining her marriage to Ralph (Richard Roundtree). In return, Evvie confides in Claire that she and Joyce were lovers which ended because of the pressures of the time pushing Joyce to a traditional marriage with Howard.
What could be a silly farce of old ladies trying to commit murder, becomes a touching rumination of forgiveness and age. Claire reunites with her first husband in touching scenes of regret and secrets. Roundtree in particular shows the charisma of the once great star while Fonda is convincing as a woman shaken up by her past trauma. On the other end, Evvie develops acceptance of the compounding weight of age and how to move on from her life. She is a woman who is true to herself, but whose past has made her unable to let anyone in as she becomes constrained to an assisted living facility.
Unfortunately, the movie is filled with clumsy moments and gags that seem to have been developed for the sole purpose of getting financing. There is a mini heist involving bacon and a poorly developed side plot in which Evvie befriends a closeted little boy who is afraid to be ostracized by his family. In addition, the film suffers from the problem of these low-budgeted digital films – overlit and flat all around. The dialogue is similarly clumsy wearing its heart on its sleeve, but the heartfelt performances come from sincere places, elevating them. Howard for his part is emblematic of problematic men of the past, the same function as Dabney Coleman in “9 to 5.” And the character outcome is too easy and in a way cheap.
But, at 85 minutes, “Moving On” is quick and surprisingly insightful. Unlike “9 to 5,” this film is not a revenge fantasy. Rather it is a rumination of the turmoil of age – one that is filled with regret and trauma and how to live beyond those. As a film about that, “Moving On” is quite emotionally effective. If only the film committed to that for its entirety.
“Moving On” Trailer