(Written by Intern, Wyatt Frantz)
After watching 80 for Brady or Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, one would not want to miss Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s Moving On as the unstoppable duo continue to steamroll through the box office. This time, they conspire in a comedic murder conspiracy in hopes of rectifying their characters’ past. This energy-filled premise, set amidst an older cast of characters, brings a humorous, yet profound twist to the trope.
We cut right to the chase when Claire (Jane Fonda) departs for the funeral of her old friend, Joyce. Within the first five minutes, she tells Joyce’s husband, Howard (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange), that she is going to kill him. An uncaring Evvie (Lily Tomlin) later barges on to the stage of Howard’s eulogy, catching Claire’s attention. The two reconvene and embark on a mission to kill Howard, despite Evvie’s hesitance. After placing themselves in some awkward, yet hilarious circumstances in a rocky start to their journey, Claire crosses paths with her ex-husband at a wake. Evvie proceeds to crash it, revealing to all that she was involved in a lesbian relationship with Joyce. Over the course of the runtime, Claire continues to reconnect with her ex, while Evvie inches closer toward helping her long-time friend fulfill her unstoppable mission for vengeance.
It is difficult to talk about Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin without mentioning how their performances synergize so well with each other. One feels a historied relationship in play that exists both inside and outside the film. As their characters’ backstories unravel, their performances continue to reflect their rich, dynamic relationship. Motivated by trauma, Claire’s mission for blood fills her with determination to put an end to the passivity that has haunted her all her life. While Evvie desperately wants to help her friend, she plays a difficult balancing act between helping Claire express her rage while acting as a voice of reason. As both characters embark on a mission for justice, they playfully explore the idea of righting wrongs from their past. To fulfill such a morbid premise while maintaining a lighter tone takes a respectable amount of experience that only seasoned actresses like Jane and Lily can pull off.
My main qualm with Moving On is that it falls victim to odd pacing and narrative structure. For example, there are a few story beats whose ignition relied on Evvie making unlikely, impulsive decisions in aiding Claire’s journey. The story engine may have been stronger had Evvie been a more active character, leaving potential for even more shenanigans in the slower first half. Then again, the current narrative angle allowed for such a thorough exploration behind Claire and Evvie’s characters. By sacrificing their duality in the first half, the audience is led on a more personal journey, subverting the conspicuous antics that sell us over to begin with. Don’t get me wrong though—it still manages to deliver.
Nearing the denouement after countless murder attempts, the finale felt a bit spontaneous. While the surprise is clearly calculated and frankly hilarious, it is missing a more explosive ending that one might hope to see. An underlying buildup in tension, thanks to some skillful editing, still helps build anticipation and make the climax worthwhile. Although the storytelling could have been more seamless, all of the above are relatively minor criticisms for something that one will more than likely watch for some laughs with the family.
Overall, Moving On places a generational spin on a traditional murder tale and manages to capitalize on what makes it unique, offering commentary about traversing generations and starting a new chapter. Ironically, in the process of trying to end one’s life, Claire seeks to begin anew in an attempt to live up to the title. There is a surprising amount of universality that stems from this irony that the writers manage to leverage in small ways, resulting in an experience many viewers can enjoy. While the film is nothing mind blowing or outstanding by any means, the thought put into it and the quirky antics that result manage to be worth one’s time.
Jane and Lily get locked and loaded when Moving On hits theaters on March 17.