The new comedy from Roadside Attractions, produced, written, and directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy; executive producer of Pinocchio) concerns Claire (Jane Fonda) and Evelyn (Lily Tomlin), two estranged friends who meet at the funeral of a third. The two ladies cart decades of baggage — and its not by Louis Vuitton. It’s gnarly. But with wonderful oddball encounters staged in the most mundane of settings (an assisted living home, the carousel at Griffith Park, a bus stop), and speaking dialogue that can only be characterized as “crusty,” the quirky comedy manages to drive home a message. Claire is weighted down by a massive (valid) grudge — and she loses no screen time in sharing it. But the sage character played by Tomlin gives her good counsel, “Claire!” she urges. “Pay attention to your movie title! Move on! “
These female Mutt ‘n Jeffs (Fonda in a chic gray bob, Tomlin in a cute head of curls) act out the major message of this home-spun movie. And that seems to be: Don’t lose sight of the good in our lives while trying to prosecute the bad — even if the bad was a really bad, a damaging personal violation.
The ‘good’ in Claire’s life takes the form of Richard Rountree, an ex husband wanting to make amends. He cooks, has nice manners, a smart daughter, and two cute grandkids. He also looks very attractive in a bathrobe. Fonda plays ‘wound tight’ to a tee, and enjoys nice scenes of romantic-redux with Rountree. Rapid on the rubber-face reaction is Malcolm McDowell, who as part of his grieving process for his wife has to escape the various mousetraps Claire is setting for him. Tomlin’s liquid performance kind of oozes (in a good way) into gaps, cracks and crevices with her witty facial expressions and off-beat line readings. Her scenes with the movie’s prospective trans-kid played by Marcel Nahapetian are adorable and feel real.
The film is a testimony in truth-telling between this passel of people. A kind of contemporary parlor drama (it actually has a scene staged in a parlor) Moving On delves into those tense moments between friends where you feel the ‘ouch’ and the annoyance gets acted out. You’ll see people at least trying to be honest with each other — McDowell’s character excepted.
I’d go to see Moving On just for its top-line stars. But this well-cast movie is also populated by an array of character actors in memorable set ups and scenes. It was fun, on Wednesday night, to watch them in action on screen, then mix and mingle with the real people afterward. The pleasure in the house was palpable as the actors could revel in the sound of out-loud laughter to their rather screwy screwball dialogue.
A darling, strange, if uneven, film … recommended. Moving On in theaters now.
Arts journalist Debra Levine founded artsmeme in 2008.