The story looks like it’s a group of older women in a book club who get their hands on the Fifty Shades of Grey book and start to search for romance for those that are single or reignite the passion in their marriages for those that are, well, married.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Diane Keaton (FINDING DORY ), Jane Fonda (OUR SOULS AT NIGHT , THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU , and MONSTER-IN-LAW ), Candice Bergen (HOME AGAIN ), and Mary Steenburgen (I DO… UNTIL I DON’T , DEAN , and the upcoming ANTIQUITIES ). In support, we have Craig T. Nelson (GOLD , and the upcoming INCREDIBLES 2 ), Andy Garcia (GEOSTORM , PASSENGERS , and upcoming films MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN  and ANA ), Alicia Silverstone (THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER  and WIMPY KID 4 ), Richard Dreyfuss (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS , and upcoming films KILLING WINSTON JONES  and NATE & AL ), and Wallace Shawn (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Bill Holderman, known for writing A WALK IN THE WOODS, and is making his directorial debut. Congrats, sir. Holderman’s partner-in-pen is Erin Simms, making her screenwriting debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Peter Nashel, known for I, TONYA (2017). The cinematographer is Andrew Dunn, known for KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES (2016), BRIDGET JONES’S BABY (2016), and THE LADY IN THE VAN (2016). Finally, the editor is Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, known for THE PROPOSAL (2009) and AMERICAN PIE (1999).
Overall, I have no idea what to think. It looks like it’ll be harmless enough, but it also looks like it’s going to be just another story about older women finding romance and acting like characters in a bad comedy, rather than actual women. A few jokes seemed to work, based solely on the trailer, but I can’t imagine liking this movie all that much. I don’t know if I’ll hate it, but… yeah…
This is my honest opinion of: BOOK CLUB
For decades, Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen), and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) have been friends and every month, get together for a book club, where one of them picks a book for them to read and then get together, talk about it, and their lives in general. One day, Vivian decides to give the ladies copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, and despite resistance, read the book. In the process, they start questioning what romance means to them at their advanced ages as Diane meets a dashing pilot named Mitchell (Andy Garcia) who fancies her, Vivian is reunited with Arthur (Don Johnson) who proposed to her forty years ago and she rejected him, Sharon throws caution into the wind and signs up for a dating site, and Carol becomes obsessed with having sex with her recently-reclusive husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson).
You know what? I don’t hate this movie. In fact, I liked it more than I didn’t.
I guess when dealing with such seasoned actors as we have, developing good chemistry between each other wouldn’t be the hardest thing in the world for them, but the connection between the four leads feels surprisingly real. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were friends in real life. Actually, as it turns out, there were some fun connections between many of them. Keaton, Fonda, and Bergen each dated Warren Beatty, Steenburgen and Nelson once played a married couple in THE PROPOSAL (2009), a lot of similar stuff like that. I’m nabbing all of this information from IMDb’s trivia page, so I’ll just post a link here if anyone’s interested.
The point is, they really do feel like age-old friends and I bought into their respective friendships.
The core characters are fairly well-written as well and cleverly seem to each deal with a different angle when dealing with relationships. Diane, whom we can all agree that Keaton got this job simply because she shares the same name of her character, is about finding happiness after a long life with a loved one. I think I understood this one the most, as my grandmother fit this profile almost to a tee, finding romance after my grandfather passed away several years ago, and is about as happy as ever. Vivian deals with commitment issues, even when the right someone comes along. Sharon deals with simple casual dating, specifically on dating sites, and Carol deals with the loss of intimacy in a marriage and trying to spice things up. While none of these issues are new in the world of motion picture in general, there is a universal likability to each character and how they react to their respective problems. Garcia has a lot of charm as Mitchell and Diane being nervous while having fun is cute to watch. I think the best pairing has to go to Steenburgen and Nelson. I love how oblivious Bruce is to Carol’s sexual advances. It’s almost like watching a little girl trying to be seductive to a boy she likes, but he’s just not getting it, so to speak. For the record, Steenburgen rocked that waitress uniform.
With that said, there are some weaknesses to these relationships. For example, in the case of Fonda and Johnson, their performances are perfectly fine, but Fonda’s commitment phobia isn’t quite delved into very well. I think I can surmise that it’s because she’s an independent and successful woman, with a sexual appeal and appetite that’s still kicking in high gear, and that the concept of a committed relationship means giving up certain freedoms that she enjoys. However, that’s really not what the movie portrays. Not completely, at least. I don’t think it’s ever truly revealed why she’s afraid of commitment. She just… is. Fonda certainly works through this like a champ, and this weakness in her character isn’t enough to be distracting, but it is noticeable if you were to sit down and really think about it. Still, to make up for it, Fonda may just be the funniest actress in the movie next to Steenburgen. Also, I think Sharon’s story was a little too rushed and not tapped into enough. I mean, she goes on one date, gets laid, had a great time, then goes on another, it’s a disaster, and then gives up on dating forever? That’s… a bit of a jump. And that disastrous date was under some pretty unique circumstances that wouldn’t happen a second time if she has given her date another chance.
And oh my god, I hated Diane’s daughters in this. Jill (Alicia Silverstone) and Adrianne (Katie Aselton) are far and away the most annoying characters in the movie. They are so afraid of their mother living by herself that she might trip and break her hip when walking, or hurt someone if she drives her car. Thing is, Diane isn’t that old, nor is she decrepit, so where is this coming from? Is it because they’re suffering from their own trauma from losing their father and they’re deathly afraid of losing their mother too? Is it because their father was such a strong character and his passing was such a shock that this feeds into their trauma as well? This is barely explained, or it’s not explained very well, resulting in overacting from both their characters when their mother makes a single independent decision and from their respective actresses. Hell, I’m on the side of their husbands, who have zero character, and are telling their insane wives to calm down. I don’t know those gentlemen, and I know it’s highly impolite to tell a woman to calm down, but… damn, those women seriously needed to calm down.
I also really respect how some of these stories were resolved. Diane’s resolution is that she acknowledges that she doesn’t know if her relationship with Mitchell will last, but she’s happy and she’s having fun, arguably resulting in the most satisfying ending where she tells off those annoying daughters of hers. Granted, I don’t quite know why the daughters accept it so readily, but I’ll count my blessings.
Overall, I know I kind of railed on the movie more than complimented it, but this movie is what it is. It’s a romantic comedy with old ladies figuring out romance. It’s a lot better than it sounds. It’s no instant classic, but it’s pretty funny. There’s no jokes that are particularly groan-worthy, or at least not that I remember, aside from anything involving the daughters, and it does get a bit generalized with the presented issues, but I enjoyed myself. Smiled and laughed more than I didn’t. So as a recommendation, I say go for it. Take your mom, you older couples out there will enjoy it, it’s a solid fun time. It’s not a must-see, but it’s a good time. This next chapter may not be timeless, but it earns smiles and laughs.
My honest rating for BOOK CLUB: a strong 3/5