‘Moving On’ Review: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin Captivate In A Black Comedy With Heart

Fonda and Tomlin have forgotten more about comedy than most actors will ever learn, and languishing in their rapport is a luxury.

Lily Tomlin (l) and Jane Fonda in ‘Moving On.’ Aaron Epstein

The third feature-length chapter in the Jane Fonda-Lily Tomlin franchise (excluding their Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie), is called Moving On. Because it is directed and written by Paul Weitz, a more organized and humane artist than the oafs they usually choose, it is more memorable than the usual farces they’ve concocted in the past—maybe not as fresh and appealing as 9 to 5, but less imaginatively bankrupt than the abysmal 80 for Brady. It just sort of lies there in the middle of a sandwich, like day-old tuna. But the chemistry between two icons is irresistible.

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MOVING ON ★★★ (3/4 stars)
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Written by: Paul Weitz
Starring: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin
Running time: 85 mins.

This time they play two life-long gal pals who reunite in California for the funeral of a beloved mutual third best friend. After the sad farewells, Claire (Fonda) confides in her friend Evvie (Tomlin) at the reception that her trip to Los Angeles has a dual purpose. In addition to honoring the memory of her old college buddy Joyce, she plans to murder Joyce’s husband Howard (welcome back, newly rotund but still lively Malcolm Mcdowell). After 51 years of Claire and Howard’s marriage during which Claire kept her hatred of Howard hidden for fear of upsetting Joyce, the time has come to free herself of the memory of that fateful night when Howard raped her.

Evvie is shocked, but in a moment of candor, she confesses an even better reason of her own for getting even with Howard: in front of her deceased friend’s husband, friends and grandchildren she announces she and Joyce were passionate lovers and Howard broke up the affair, causing Evvie a lifetime of resentment and rage. After so many decades, Claire and Evvie decide to pool resources, become partners in crime, and eliminate the old bastard for good. The rest of the movie is about the many ways they try to do it and fail. In the process, Claire rediscovers her affection for the ex-husband (Richard Roundtree, who used to play Shaft) she dumped because her parents disapproved of her marriage to a black man, Evvie comes to terms with her unfulfilled life as a lesbian cellist, and everyone benefits from the self-fulfilling satisfaction of sweet revenge before moving on.

Much of Moving On  defies logic when you hold the plot up to the light for anything resembling close analysis, but the focus shifts from black humor (Claire, ignorantly shopping for firearms) to moments of tenderness (Evvie’s kindness and compassion for a neglected child who comes to visit the retirement home where she lives) and two stars have forgotten nothing about captivating an audience with their skill and craft. I love the way they thrust and parry, upstaging each other without malice while they prove the value of growing old gracefully. They’ve had so much plastic surgery that the trademark wry humor has left Lily Tomlin’s expressions and an ugly white wig and horn-rimmed glasses make Jane Fonda look twice as old as she is, but who cares? They’ve forgotten more about comedy than most actors will ever learn, and languishing in their rapport is a luxury. The film moves too slowly to be consistently funny, but it lacks the dumb sight gags and labored  one-liners that bog most alleged comedies down in padding. Not a great film, but Moving On is a pleasurable enough way to kill an hour and a half without regret.

Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.


‘Moving On’ Review: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin Captivate In A Black Comedy With Heart