Moving On

Posted on March 16, 2023 at 5:50 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language

Copyright 2023 Roadside Productions
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are back for the second time in two months, following “80 for Brady,” and if there is ever a Jane and Lily movie-of-the-month club I will be the first to sign up. The screenplay of “Moving On” is not up to their level, but hardly anything is. Despite the unevenness of tone and some sags in the narrative, the two of them are a delight and their way with a line is so irresistible.

Claire (Fonda, looking gorgeous in white hair) and Evelyn (Tomlin looking like an aging flower child) were close friends in college but have been estranged. They meet at the funeral of another college friend. Claire announces to the friend’s mourning widower, Howard (Malcolm McDowell) that, now that her friend is dead and cannot be hurt by it, she intends to kill him. That weekend. And her next step is to try to reconcile with Evelyn to bring her on as an accomplice. The rest of the film takes place over the next few days, as we learn something about the past that separated the friends, what they have been doing since, how their various plans to carry off this homicide develop, and spend time on another reunion. Claire’s ex-husband Ralph also attends the funeral, and he is played by Richard (“Shaft”) Roundtree, so you know there will be some romantic sparks.

Speaking of reunions, this film reunites Tomlin with Paul Weitz, the writer/director of her underseen film “Grandma.” That film did a better job of juggling a very serious theme, a teenager asking her grandmother for help getting money for an abortion, with drama (there is also a complicated reunion of a formerly married couple) and some dark humor. This one sets a tone at the beginning that, even with the threat of murder, is off-kilter with the trauma of what happens later.

But on the way there, we get the truly enjoyable performances of two veterans at the top of their game, who, after seven seasons of “Grace and Frankie” are exquisitely attuned at bringing out the best in each other. Evelyn, a retired cellist in an assisted living facility, has most of the best lines and Fonda has most of the character work, and both are never less than sublime.

Parents should know that this movie has very mature material including the plotting of a murder, with references to rape. There are sexual references and a non-explicit sexual situation. Characters use strong language and drink alcohol.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Claire tell Ralph what happened at the time? Why didn’t Evelyn tell Claire the truth? What advice would you give Claire?

If you like this, try: “9 to 5,” “Grace and Frankie,” and “80 for Brady”

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SAG Lifetime Achievement Winner: Lily Tomlin

Posted on January 29, 2017 at 8:00 am

Congratulations to tonight’s winner of the Screen Actors Guild award for lifetime achievement, Lily Tomlin!

From her appearance on “Laugh-In” as Ernestine the telephone operator and Edith Ann the little girl to her subtle, complex, witty performances in films from “Nashville” to “All of Me,” “I Heart Huckabees,” “Nine to Five,” “The Incredible Shrinking Woman,” the recent “Grandma” and her Netflix series with longtime friend Jane Fonda, “Frankie and Grace,” her Tony-award winning one-woman show “The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe,” and her voice work as the teacher in “The Magic School Bus,” Tomlin has given us decades of humor, insight, and a deep humanity.

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Posted on August 27, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Copyright Sony 2015
Copyright Sony 2015

Lily Tomlin is cranky, feisty, tough, and utterly irresistible in this story of a grandmother who has to visit past decisions about her own life in order to help her teenage granddaughter. Tomlin plays the aptly named Elle (French for “she”), a feminist poet. Her work is respected and influential but that has not translated into financial stability. She has recently cut up her credit cards and made a wind chime out of them.

As we first see her, she is dumping her much younger girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer). No “it’s not you; it’s me.” No, “I’ll always remember the good times.” No lyrical meditations on love and loss. Not even any arguments or accusations. Just “It’s over. Leave.”

And then Elle’s granddaughter arrives. Her name is Sage (Julia Garner), and she has a head of fuzzy, soft curls that make her look like a dandelion. She is young and vulnerable but determined. She needs help, and it is clear that she would not be there if she had any other option. She is scheduled to have an abortion that afternoon, but she needs $630. And so Grandma and Sage set off in Elle’s clunker of a car, making desperate visits to people who might be able to help them. So we see a series of encounters, sad, angry, poignant, romantic, score-settling, each impeccably performed by an outstanding cast of actors in small scenes with deepening impact. We learn more about Elle’s life, the wrenching loss she is still mourning, the kindness and unkindness she has shown, and the way she has and has not dealt with the consequences. Standouts include Nat Wolff (“Paper Towns”) as the father, Laverne Cox as a sympathetic tattoo artist, Marcia Gay Harden as Elle’s brisk businesswoman daughter, and Sam Elliott as Elle’s ex.

Writer/director Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”) has taken a story that could be a parody of the worst nightmares of Fox News fans and made it into a very human story of love, loss, and overcoming the fear of intimacy. It is about the families we create and the perfect love we must feel for imperfect people.

Parents should know that this film has very strong and crude language, drinking, drugs, teen pregnancy, and extended discussion of abortion.

Family discussion: Why does Elle break up with Olivia? Why don’t Elle and her daughter get along? Why is the film called “Grandma” and not “Elle” or “Elle and Sage?”

If you like this, try: “The Daytrippers”

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