It’s been more than 40 years since Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin teamed up for the late gay filmmaker Colin Higgins’ comic masterpiece “9 to 5.”
Another 30 years passed before the actors were paired up again, this time for the popular multi-Emmy Award nominated streaming sitcom “Grace and Frankie.” In 2023, we get not one, but two more Fonda and Tomlin collaborations; “80 For Brady” and “Moving On” (Roadside Attractions).
In “Moving On,” written and directed by Paul Weitz (who also wrote and directed the acclaimed Tomlin vehicle “Grandma”), old college friends Claire (Fonda) and Evelyn (Tomlin) are reunited after a few decades when they attend the funeral of their close friend and classmate Joyce. As we soon discover, both women have different reasons for attending the memorial service and the wake.
Joyce is survived by her unpleasant husband Howard (Malcolm McDowell), her daughter Allie (Sarah Burns), and three obnoxious grandchildren. Shortly after arriving at the funeral, Claire approaches Howard who appears happy to see her. Claire, however, feels differently and lets Howard know that she plans to kill him. Several years earlier, when he was an alcoholic, Howard raped Claire. The assault, which Claire kept secret, not only damaged her friendship with Joyce, but also destroyed her marriage to her first husband, Ralph (Richard Roundtree).
Evelyn, a former concert cellist debilitated by “arthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis,” now residing in an independent living facility, has her own personal history with Joyce. During junior and senior year of college, and for six months following graduation, Evelyn and Joyce were lovers.
These revelations, combined with Claire and Evelyn’s reunion, result in the pair coming together for a common purpose. While there are unquestionably comic elements involved, Fonda, and especially Tomlin’s restrained performances give the movie an unexpected gravitas.
In fact, Tomlin owns every scene in which she appears, including the ones in which she interacts with James (Marcel Nahapetian), the young, gay grandson of one of Evelyn’s neighbors. Tomlin gives the movie’s queerness, including the scene in which Evelyn tells Claire about her marriage to Annette who died in 2009, authenticity and weight.
However, “Moving On” isn’t without its problems. Claire’s scenes with ex-husband Ralph are sweet and touching, but they go on for far too long. The same holds true for the confrontation with Howard, and the ensuing chaos, which borders on slapstick.
Nevertheless, Tomlin and Fonda don’t disappoint, and remind us of the value of having characters of all ages represented on screen. Moviegoers would be wise to make time to spend with “Moving On.”
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.