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TIFF Film Review: ‘Moving On’ Enjoyably Teams Jane Fonda Back Up with Lily Tomlin

Watching legends in action is always fun. Someone who is at the top of their craft? Give me their latest whenever you can. At the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, an example of this is playing in Moving On. Pairing Jane Fonda again with Lily Tomlin pays major dividends, especially in a festival environment. At the same time, this revenge dramedy can’t fully reconcile the comedy with the drama. Watching it veer back and forth makes for a bumpy ride, but Fonda and Tomlin make it a trip worth taking. It may not be the flick everyone remembers at TIFF, but I certainly was ultimately glad that I saw it.

Moving On lives and dies on how much you like watching Fonda and Tomlin doing their thing. A Grace and Frankie reunion, the movie knows that you’re there to watch them in action. So, it leans into their sparring. It’s a good choice, too at least until the film periodically delves into the deathly serious.

When her old friend passes away, Claire (Fonda) attends the funeral, running into her college roommate Evelyn (Tomlin) in the process. They’re reunited, but it’s not without a purpose, at least for Claire. Speaking to her late friend’s husband Howard (Malcolm McDowell), she proclaims that she’s going to kill him. Claire has her reasons, Evelyn understands, and they both agree, Howard’s days are numbered.

Determined to see this through, the girls set out to pull off a murder. As the reasons for this become clear, as well as why the friends become estranged, we mostly just hang out with them. There’s even a chance at rekindling something for Claire with her ex-husband Ralph (Richard Roundtree). Through it all, we’re mostly there to watch Claire and Evelyn spar with each other.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin make a wonderful pair. Their chemistry is just terrific. Fonda has to do a bit more heavy lifting, but both are very much on point. Malcolm McDowell is a bit wasted, but Richard Roundtree is lovely in an unexpectedly romantic role. The small supporting cast also includes Catherine Dent, but this is all about Fonda and Tomlin, plain and simple.

Writer/director Paul Weitz has a bit of an imbalance here. Moving On has solid comedy and affecting drama, but they don’t always mesh well together. The reason for Claire to want to kill Howard is so dark and so serious, it bounces right off the antics of Claire and Evelyn trying to buy a gun, for example. Weitz has his heart in the right place, and really does get a lot out of Fonda and Tomlin, but it still is a limited film in its effectiveness.

Moving On is one of the smaller films at TIFF this year, and one with a significant flaw, but the performances of Fonda and Tomlin save the day. Their work makes the movie work, that’s all there is to it. So, if you’re a fan of theirs, a new pairing is on the horizon, so look out!

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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