If “lovely” isn’t the first word you’d think would be used to describe a movie about an attempted murder, then you haven’t seen “Moving On,” a funny and bittersweet little story of love, friendship, and, yes, retribution. .
In one of her best and most resonant film performances since returning to the screen in 2005, Jane Fonda stars as Claire, a twice-divorced, dog-loving grandmother who travels from Ohio to Los Angeles to attend the funeral of her ex. roommate in college, Joyce. . (The movie was filmed largely in Pasadena, Altadena, and Burbank.) But Claire has an agenda beyond honoring the memory of her deceased friend: now that Joyce is gone, Claire wants to kill Joyce’s husband, Howard (Malcolm McDowell), for revenge. reasons that will develop as we go along.
But her mission is admittedly pretty harebrained, in contrast to Claire’s seemingly circumspect general demeanor. All she knows is that she wants to take down the hostile and remorseless Howard. How and when she will achieve that, she hopes she will show up.
To that end, Claire enlists another college friend, Evelyn (Fonda’s “Grace and Frankie,” “80 for Brady” and “9 to 5” co-star Lily Tomlin), who makes a cheeky entrance at the funeral. from Joyce, and it’s even more unfiltered at his memorial gathering. Although Evelyn, a former orchestra cellist and Joyce’s college-era lover, hasn’t seen Claire in a long time, she’s quick-witted, cunning, and maybe bored enough with her current life to get in on Claire’s plan. . And the misadventures continue.
Sometimes the boldest Evelyn proves to be an unexpected voice of reason. But that doesn’t stop her from accompanying Claire to visit a friendly gun store or bartering with a fellow resident at her nursing home for the gun she’s supposedly hiding herself (a transaction that offers a twisted good deal). reward).
Howard’s potential murder may be the springboard here, but this compact story is so much more than that. Writer-director Paul Weitz, a force behind other excellent character dramas like “About a Boy,” “In Good Company,” “Admission” and “Grandma,” starring Tomlin in 2015, fleshes out his well-watched script with a melancholic variety of grace notes for both Claire and Evelyn that unfold simply and sincerely.
Whether it’s Claire’s tender reunion with her kind and even ex-husband, Ralph (a wonderful Richard Roundtree), Evelyn’s protective kindness to a pre-teen boy (Marcel Nahapetian) exploring gender expression, or Evelyn’s wonder at learning from Joyce and the devoted daughter of Howard (Sarah Burns) who Joyce had kept from Evelyn’s old love letters, the film wonderfully tackles aging, individuality, regret, and the invigorating freedom that you don’t give a damn anymore.
Having become something of a modern-day female version of Matthau and Lemmon, Fonda and Tomlin not only playfully display their vivid chemistry, but bring expert nuance and pathos to the many emotional twists in their characters, large and small. If that’s not a huge surprise, given the length, breadth and caliber of their runs, it’s still moving and impressive to behold.
The murder thread resumes in earnest in the film’s third act and manages to resolve itself in a series of surprising and satisfying, if perhaps a little convenient, moves. But by then we’re so invested in Claire and her deep cause that no matter what, we just want to see her happy. Evelyn too.
In the end, “Moving On” emerges as a feel-good movie through some feel-bad events, mainly that egregious part of the story between Claire and Howard. It’s a bit of a tightrope act to be sure, but the film appealingly shows that no matter how old one is, if you can find a way to reconcile the past, the future can be brighter than you ever imagined. .
Classification: R, by language
Execution time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: Starts March 17 in general release