Review: 'Moving On' Reminds Us Fonda and Tomlin are National Treasures

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday March 17, 2023

"Moving On"
"Moving On"  

Jane Fonda should be declared a national treasure. She is film history. Fonda made her screen debut at the tippy-top of the turbulent 1960s, portraying an ingenue in love with Anthony Perkins in "Tall Story." Then she played a hustler turned prostitute in "Walk on the Wild Side." She proved her deft comic chops in films like "Cat Ballou" and "Barefoot in the Park," and in the late 1960s and '70s became one of our most significant screen actors, astonishing audiences in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," "Klute," "Julia," "Coming Home," and "The China Syndrome," all Oscar-nominated (two wins), and that's just naming a few. In 1980 she teamed with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton for the seminal comedy "9 to 5."

In 1990, Fonda gave up acting for her then-husband, Ted Turner (and we forever hate him for it). She would return with a vengeance 15 years later, hilariously destroying Jennifer Lopez's life in "Monster-in-Law." She's been seen on the big and small screen, quite frequently, ever since — most notably opposite Tomlin in "Grace and Frankie," still Netflix's longest-running TV series.

Last month, the 85-year-old actress starred with Tomlin, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno in the box-office hit "80 for Brady," and will be seen in two months in "Book Club: The Next Chapter."

Tomlin is no slouch herself, garnering her first and only Oscar nomination to date in the Robert Altman masterpiece "Nashville" in 1975, and creating amazing work on screen, TV, and stage in each subsequent decade. She has six Emmys and won a Tony Award for her one-woman tour de force, "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," written by her wife (of forever) Jane Wagner. In 2015, Tomlin starred in the underrated comedy "Grandma," written and directed by Paul Weitz.

So, why all the credit listing and celebratory words? Because it's important to know that these women matter. They're both trailblazers in a male-dominated industry, and are both craft-conscious, sublime actors still breaking ground by showing everyone that women do not stop living after 80. They still hurt, are haunted, and can heal. They're still vital. And they still thrive!

In Weitz's latest feature, "Moving On," two old friends get together to avenge a horrific wrong that occurred 46 years ago. At the funeral of a beloved college friend, Claire (Fonda) walks over to the deceased's husband, Howard (Malcolm McDowell), and firmly declares, "I'm going to kill you. Now that she's gone...I'm going to do it this weekend." She then casually walks away. Enter an intoxicated Evelyn (Tomlin), who has some interesting things of her own to bluntly announce. Most of the rest of the movie is about the why and how and if... Claire murders Howard, with Evelyn in tow as her sardonic moral compass. I will cease with plot now, but you can guess Claire's reason early on.

Tomlin asked Weitz to write something for herself and Fonda, and he gifted them both with a deceptively simple dark comedy that is so laced with realism that we easily empathize with Claire's plight and Evelyn's loneliness.

Rest assured our duo are no Grace and Frankie here, and this is not your run-of-the-mill #MeToo movie.

"Moving On" is arguably Fonda's best lead performance since her 7th (and last to date) Oscar-nominated turn as a washed up, alcoholic actress in Sidney Lumet's underrated thriller "The Morning After." And one scene in this film, where she looks in the mirror and hilariously asks, "Are you fucking serous?" reminded me of that exceptional portrayal.

Fonda underplays her role brilliantly, toeing the comedy/tragedy line while delivering an authentic portrait of a haunted woman virtually destroyed by past trauma. Fonda finds the humanity, but also the outrage, that fuels her desire for vengeance. It's fascinating, intense, yet subtle work, and one that should be remembered next year at Oscar time. (You shouldn't have to pander, grandstand, and put on a fat suit to get awards recognition.)

Tomlin brings her clever wit to Evelyn, but that humor masks great pain and Tomlin is a wonder at allowing little drops of revelations to seep through.

Richard Roundtree excels in the role of Claire's ex, who would like to do a little rekindling. McDowell is the perfect slime ball.

And kudos to Weitz for showing us two octogenarian women who are vibrant and sexy!

The one place Weitz goes wrong is the ending. It's not a bad ending as much as a cop out. I'm sure it was written to give two characters the audience has come to care about some kind of catharsis without ramifications, but that's a misstep since a serious dark comedy like this one that ends on a light note diminishes its power.

The filmmaker and team must be commended for showing us that survivors of abuse live with the pain, guilt, and shame their entire lives. It's not something that goes away. Ever. Learning to heal the wound is the trick. The scar will always be there. Claire finds her catharsis. So many never do.

"Moving On" premieres in theaters March 17.

Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide ( and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.