Writer/Director Paul Weitz wrote the sublime road comedy Grandma for Lily Tomlin, and now at the suggestion of Tomlin he wrote a new film for both Lily and Jane Fonda, one with characters unrecognizable from the pair they played for seven years on the Netflix sitcom, Grace And Frankie, in a story tinged with a dark side, as well as some pungent commentary on the effect of sexual trauma, even nearly a half century later. This is the kind of movie I love, independently made, using great actors in a unexpected kinds of roles, running a tight no-fat 85 minutes, and being thoroughly entertaining with something to say as well.
Fonda plays Claire who is attending the funeral of her old college roommate Joyce. She meets again with another college friend Evie (Tomlin) and confesses her plans don’t include just attending a funeral to pay respects, but also to kill Joyce’s husband Howard (a creepy Malcolm McDowell) who on a drunken night decades ago, and beknownst to his wife, inflicted sexual trauma on Claire, a horrendous experience she never told Joyce about, but like so many victims of sexual abuse has kept it pent up, in her case for 46 years. She has her mind set to carry out her murder plans, and the film actually gets quite a few nervous laughs out of her raw and decided determination. Fonda plays her alternately fragile and confident in her mission, someone confronting finally a past she had hidden away but not afraid to act on it in graphically violent terms. A kitchen knife at the reception will do, or a trip to a gun shop to buy a gun to shoot Howard, or a deal made with a friend who might have another kind of gun that will do the trick, or how about just smothering him with a pillow?
Tomlin’s caustic Evie has her own showcase moments at the funeral and then reception with revelations of her own that are guaranteed to shock the gathered mourners. Together she and Claire team up to wreak revenge, but this is not broadly played like say the first film in which they co-starred, 1980’s 9 To 5 in which they also teamed to take out revenge on their horrible boss, but here in more deliberate, even quiet ways where you thoroughly believe the damage that has been caused on one night decades ago that was quickly forgotten by the man, but a source of forever pain for the woman.
In a subplot Fonda is reunited as well with an old boyfriend (Richard Roundtree) with whom she abruptly broke things off with, without explanation. They pick up, now years wiser, where they left off with poignant results.
The title says it all, these are all characters who are ‘moving on’ , but have to erase the wounds of the past before they can do that. Weitz (About A Boy, Admission, In Good Company, American Pie) is a writer who can take an outrageous idea and somehow make it plausible which is exactly what he does here. Who hasn’t wanted to kill someone at one point in our lives, but of course would never act on it? Claire convinces you she means business, but this is no over the top movie character but a believable older woman out to right a wrong. Fonda goes deep on this one.
No one can deliver a zinger like Tomlin and Weitz has given her some choice material. By the way their 2014 movie Grandma which details Tomlin driving her granddaughter played by Julia Garner in order to get an abortion would be ripe for re-release in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. McDowell, with long ago memories of If…. and A Clockwork Orange can play a creep with the best of them and socks this insufferable guy home. Roundtree looks great and has some warm and touching scenes opposite Fonda in a bittersweet reunion between their characters.
Producers are Stephanie Meurer, Andrew Miano, Chris Parker, Dylan Sellers, and Weitz. Moving On had its World Premiere tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival and is looking for distribution. UTA is handling sales.