Friday 24 August 2018

Movie Review: Book Club (2018)

A romantic comedy about the pursuit of relationships in the later years, Book Club features a stellar cast and bravely explores an often ignored topic, but quickly runs out of plot.

Four women friends in their senior years have been part of the same book club for 30 years. Vivian (Jane Fonda) is a successful hotel owner, Diane (Diane Keaton) is still getting over the loss of her husband, Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a divorced federal judge, and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is happily married to the recently-retired Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), although their sex life is dormant..

Vivian's selected book for the group to read next is the erotic Fifty Shades of Grey. Initially reluctant and scandalized, the other ladies get into the spirit and all agree to pursue romance and reawaken their sex drives. Vivian rekindles a relationship with old flame Arthur (Don Johnson). Diane meets and starts dating the suave Mitchell (Andy Garcia), although her daughters are overprotective. Sharon experiments with online dating, and meets George (Richard Dreyfuss) among others. Carol tries to get Bruce interested in having sex again, with limited success.

Directed and co-written by Bill Holderman, Book Club carries a clever premise: unlock the libido of older women with some trashy fiction and watch them roar back to sexual activity. But despite a cast featuring multiple winners of multiple big and small screen awards, Book Club never builds on its intriguing concept. After affirming that women are allowed to enjoy a sex drive on the other side of 65ish, the film quickly settles down to unveil four essentially unrelated mini rom-coms, none containing much that is new.

Vivian is successful, independent and afraid to surrender to the mysteries of falling in love and the charms of couplehood. Diane is being treated like a child by her own daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton), who are hampering her attempts at finding new love. Sharon needs to learn to let go of the husband who divorced her while suffering through a series of mildly comic dates. Carol has to find a way to rev-up her husband. Each storyline gets about 20 minutes of screen time, which already feels long given the overly familiar notes.

Fonda, Keaton, Bergen and Steenburgen roll back the calendar about 40 years and reclaim the screen with confidence. While they generally just recreate their most famous screen personas, their star appeal and enduring talent ensure that Book Club is at least always watchable, if only rarely enjoyable. Don Johnson and Andy Garcia are the two most prominent men, their roles restricted to exuding idyllic mature masculine confidence and whispering bland aspirations of true love.

Book Club looks for new rom-com frontiers, but stumbles on the same old limp clich├ęs.

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