When Claire walked into the memorial, she didn’t recognize anyone there but Howard. But Howard was pretty much the only person she came to see anyway.
Her best friend, Joyce, had just died, you see. They’d been friends for so many years; through so many seasons of life. But there was one thing Claire had kept from Joyce, one thing that had forced Claire to, well, keep her distance, relatively speaking. There is, however, no reason to keep her distance any longer. No reason to stay away. Nothing she says or does now will ever hurt her friend again.
And there are things to say. Things to do. So Claire waits patiently in a line of people. Slowly making her way to face Joyce’s husband, Howard.
When she finally stands in front of the once-handsome man—weren’t they all more attractive 40, 50 years ago?—she faces him quietly with a soft smile. He grins warmly, looking deeply into her eyes. Now is their time: Claire’s time. She takes a shaky breath and says:
“I’m going to kill you, Howard. I’ll kill you this weekend.”
Claire walks away then, leaving Howard stunned. It’s always good to make a dramatic exit. Now, all she needs to do is buy a gun somewhere. Or maybe a big knife. Poison? She’s never actually followed through on a murder before. But this time is the kicker.
Then Claire spots Evelyn. They had both been so close to Joyce. Though Evelyn had been closer to her in, well, some … more … physical ways. Evelyn was also the only person Claire had ever told about what Howard had done.
And when Claire sees Evelyn, she immediately thinks: Hmmm. A gun is good, but an accomplice might be better.
Many hands make light work they say.
We also learn that Howard was once an alcoholic, and while kicking the habit he took the time to apologize to those he wronged. (Except for Claire.) Claire also apologizes to her ex-husband for hurting him years before.
Joyce’s funeral service takes place in what appears to be a church, albeit one without any obvious religious symbols to verify that fact.
During a memorial service, Evelyn reveals that she and Joyce were roommates and lesbian lovers for several years. “This was who she was, but not who she wanted to be,” Evelyn laments publicly. Evelyn also notes that she was married to a different woman years later. And she retrieves steamy love letters she sent to Joyce.
Evelyn also makes friends with a young boy who is visiting his grandfather at their retirement home. She senses that this kid has an affinity for women’s fashion and she subtly encourages him in his gender explorations—giving him a pair of clip-on earrings. Later, when the boy’s parents force him to return the earrings, Evelyn confronts his parents and again encourages him to explore his effeminate feelings further.
Claire reunites with her ex-husband, Ralph. He invites her to dinner and the two rekindle past feelings. Claire and Ralph kiss, embrace and make sexual comments to one another. They spend the night together, though the camera cuts away soon after they climb into bed together (both dressed in night wear).
We hear of a time back in college when Claire planned to paint a vagina on the side of a student hall as a form of protest.
We eventually learn that Howard raped Claire 45 years ago. He believes it was a consensual “poor choice” on both of their parts, but Claire remembers it as a drunken and violent rage. (She describes the rape in graphic detail.) And much of the film explores how that alcoholic assault savaged Claire’s life in destructive, negative ways. (Though oddly, Moving On also wants to use that horrible event as fodder for its grim humor.)
In that light, the film winks and chuckles at Claire’s desire to find a way to kill Howard. She tries to buy a gun, pulls a large kitchen knife threateningly and eventually gets her hands on a flare gun that she thinks will get the job done.
Someone has an anxiety attack while screaming angrily, is almost killed when smothered by a pillow, then is killed by a truck. A dog jumps up on an elderly woman, causing her to fall and break her arm.
Seven f-words and three s-words are joined by one or two uses each of “d–n,” “b-stard” and “h—.” God’s and Jesus’ names are abused more than a dozen times total (three of those exclamations combining God with “d–n”). Someone is called a “dyke.”
In spite of the horrible influence of alcoholism in the storyline, Moving On doesn’t flinch from showing a lot of heavy drinking. During Joyce’s memorial, for instance, nearly everyone present is drinking wine or some other kind of alcohol. Evelyn sips from a flask. Claire and Ralph have wine and after dinner drinks during their meal together. At one particularly low point, Evelyn pulls a bottle of vodka out of her fridge and offers some to the retirement community’s night watchman. When he refuses, she jokingly offers him pot, cocaine and heroin.
Two women take smiling selfies next to someone’s gravesite.
At first blush, Moving On has the feel of a comedy. Or at the very least it’s a dramedy about octogenarian ladies plotting a clumsy revenge murder.
However, with a bit of screen time, this pic grows a lot less sunny. Or funny. In fact, it turns downright dour as it wrestles with the life-crushing effects of alcoholism and rape. Then, through subplot messaging, it profanely unpacks society’s mistreatment of women, gays and people with gender dysphoria.
In the end, this pic is a poorly scripted, Jekyll-and-Hyde muddle that doesn’t really serve any of its hybrid sides very well.
My advice: Move on.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.