We all know that Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin go together like peanut butter and jelly. After seven seasons on Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” and another hit comedy just recently at the box office (“80 for Brady”) the two reunite for filmmaker Paul Weitz who wrote and directed the 2015 comedy “Grandma” specifically for Tomlin. “Moving On” was also written for Tomlin and Fonda, who first starred together in 1980’s “9 to 5,” but beware the film’s marketing is a bit misleading. There are plenty of laughs, but they are interspersed with weighty drama that goes from 0 to 100 real quick.
Claire (Fonda), Evie (Tomlin), and Joyce were college roommates four and a half decades ago. They lost touch over the years as life zoomed by at a rapid pace. Several failed marriages later, Claire, now a grandmother and dog lover, and Evie, a retired cellist who lives in assisted living, reunite at the funeral for their dear friend Joyce who is survived by her husband Howard (Malcolm McDowell), daughter Allie (Sarah Burns), and a couple of grandkids.
Howard seems surprised to see Claire walk into the church, perhaps because she’s traveled from Ohio to Los Angeles to attend the funeral. Still, he knows Joyce would be pleased by her presence. But before Howard can get any words past “Oh, Claire,” she states “I’m going to kill you. Now that she’s gone, I’m gonna do it this weekend,” and walks away. Fonda’s timing and McDowell’s reaction make the scene funny, even though she’s being serious. Weitz does a suitable job of balancing the heavy overtones and comedy, surprisingly without any jarring moments.
Evie also makes a grand entrance at the funeral service by stumbling in during Howard’s eulogy. She has her own revelation for Howard but saves it for the wake. After the big announcement, he calls her delusional and she insists that Joyce told her that he was cruel. Howard then kicks her out of the reception, and she decides to help Claire carry out her mission, “So, what’s the plan Scarface?” Claire responds “I’m gonna buy a gun.”
Claire’s motive for wiping out Howard is unveiled in the final chapter, but you should have it figured out before then, there are plenty of clues along the way. Since Claire isn’t from California, she can’t legally purchase a handgun. Evie has an idea that involves four crispy pieces of bacon, seriously, Tomlin is the film’s comic relief.
Along the way “Moving On” includes a couple of subplots. The first involves Claire’s former husband Ralph played by Richard Roundtree, a great addition to the cast. He and Fonda have good chemistry as the two exes reminisce and rekindle. Claire blames herself for their failed marriage which points back to Howard. Then there’s Evie’s interaction with a young boy named James (Marcel Nahapetian) who is dealing with gender dysphoria. She reassures him that he is normal by offering love and support. Unfortunately, that doesn’t set well with his parents which leads to a nasty confrontation.
Thanks to Paul Weitz, this is not your average comedy. The writer-director behind “About a Boy” and “American Pie,” adds substance to what could have been another wacky farce showcasing what old people can’t do. Just the opposite, the film showcases what golden agers can do and this A-list cast fires on all cylinders.
Now showing in theaters