Moving On

When her beloved college friend Joyce passes away, Claire (Jane Fonda) travels to the California funeral dead set on killing Joyce’s husband Howard (Malcolm McDowell).  She’ll confide in the third of their femme trio, Evelyn (Lily Tomlin) about her plans after the ceremony, but although Evie tries to dissuade her, it turns out she has reason to hate Howard too and they need to address their pasts before “Moving On.”

Laura's Review: C+

Writer/director Paul Weitz has had an eclectic career since collaborating with his brother Chris on “American Pie” and “About a Boy,” veering into drama with solo works like “Being Flynn” and “Bel Canto and crossing genres with films like "Grandma" and "Fatherhood.”  His latest featuring the hot pairing of Jane Fonda and his “Grandma” star Tomlin isn’t so much a dramedy like those films as one whose uncertain tone has it straddling two genres rather than happily mixing them.  Weitz’s screenplay introduces a young boy as a conduit to a prop, then circles back and uses him to make an LGBTQ statement lest he seem mere plot device only to end up emphasizing his unwieldy narrative.

Claire doesn’t beat around the bush with Howard, announcing her intentions when he greets her at the service.  This makes for a punchy start (after an extended introduction of Claire taking leave of her Corgi Herschel who will never be mentioned again, even when it seems Claire won’t be returning to Ohio).  Thing immediately begin to get awkward, though, when Evie arrives, entering the service from behind Howard as he’s giving his wife’s eulogy, a scene played for comedy which falls flat.  Weitz then spends five minutes with Evie humoring Claire in a gun store only for Claire to discover she cannot purchase a weapon in California with an Ohio driver’s license.

These lurching offshoots almost derail the film, but Fonda and Tomlin’s efforts maintain momentum.  At the post funeral reception at Howard’s house, Claire, armed with a butcher’s knife, is stopped dead in her tracks by Ralph ("Shaft" himself, Richard Roundtree) who tells her he was apprised of the memorial mere hours earlier and told that she would be there.  Turns out he’s not only another friend from college but Claire’s ex-husband, still baffled as to why she left him all those years ago.  Thankfully Weitz actually ties this mystery together with Claire’s hatred towards Howard and the Fonda/Roundtree pairing becomes the film’s most charming element.

There’s a romance revelation for Evie too, but it’s one in the past, given new life by the efforts of Claire and Howard’s daughter Allie (Sarah Burns, HBO's 'Barry').  Weitz manages to make a clichéd bit of violence work by distracting us with an added layer, but everything surrounding Howard in this film is problematic, including the man himself when he’s made to look sympathetic just as his monstrous behavior is finally revealed.

With “Moving On” Weitz gets from A to B by careening around J, M and Q but Fonda, Tomlin and Roundtree maintain rooting interest in this odd little film.     

Robin's Review: C+

Roadside Attractions opens "Moving On" in theaters on 3/17/23.