Bette Davis famously owned a pillow with the adage “old age

Bette Davis famously owned a pillow with the adage “old age

Bette Davis famously owned a pillow with the adage “old age

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Bette Davis famously owned a pillow with the adage “old age ain’t no place for sissies” stitched across it. This truism is at the heart of writer/director Paul Weitz’s “Moving On,” which stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as Claire and Evelyn, two aging, estranged friends thrown together again after decades at the funeral of their mutual friend Joyce.

A melodrama with comedic elements, plot-wise the film is about Claire’s desire to get vengeance for a sexual assault perpetrated by Joyce’s husband Howard (Malcolm McDowell) nearly 50 years earlier that completely derailed her life. In the wake of the event, she pulled away from Joyce and Evelyn, left her loving husband Ralph (Richard Roundtree, as charming and suave as ever), and has spent most of her life petrified by the trauma. 

Yet, this is not a film that exists solely for its plot mechanics. It’s a clear-eyed examination of the compounding weight of growing older, of carrying your life and your hopes and your memories and your regrets with you everywhere you go. The title, “Moving On,” does not just mean to move beyond your past but also to keep moving forward in life, even if your past stays with you. 

Like the characters they play, Fonda and Tomlin have spent decades building a deep friendship while appearing together in projects like “9 to 5” and “Grace and Frankie,” and their chemistry shines as bright as ever. They are not, however, just playing versions of their own personas. 

Claire is a woman who never found her own power, always living for others after the assault left her “mute.” Fonda plays her with a somber rigidity, holding her body tight as if thousands of emotions are one moment away from escaping the cage she’s built around them. As she reconnects with Evelyn, Ralph, and even Howard, Claire’s long-repressed sense of humor, sensuality, and seething anger she kept hidden for so long find their way to the surface. 

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