Moving On

By Joanna Langfield

The latest installment in the Jane Fonda/Lily Tomlin rep company may not be the best, but what a joy it is to watch these two icons show us how it’s done.

In Paul Weitz’s film, Fonda and Tomlin play old college roommates, brought together by the death of their close friend. Life hasn’t been the easiest for either of them and this sad event brings a lot of pain to the forefront. So, you know, it’s a comedy. I’m not unaware there can and maybe should be lighter moments sprinkled throughout the saddest of times, but this script feels kind of nervous, afraid to really tackle the serious stuff it brings, opting instead to throw in a haha or two.

And there’s a lot more thrown in than that. I appreciate the fact that Weitz has broadened his scope, to touch upon a whole bunch of socially relevant topics. But the mere nods some of them get (interracial marriages, lesbian love affairs, young boys who like to play ‘dress up’, the depressing realities of aging, just to mention a few) feel as if there’s a checklist. See the lady in the wheelchair? Check that one off.

But, when you’ve got Fonda and Tomlin doing their thing, does any of the rest of it really matter? Tomlin, who also gave a full bodied and quite touching performance in the gleeful 80 for Brady, allows a grittier and more interesting side to her sad and frustrated musician. And Fonda does something that really surprised me. She plays her somewhat shattered leading lady with a kind of shy, almost quiet anger. This is a woman who has something to truly be angry about. She’s just buried it for so long, she barely knows how to speak her truth. We all know women like that. And it’s terrific to see the dignity Fonda brings to her here.