Film Review – Book Club

Directed:  Bill Holderman

Writer:  Bill Holderman, Erin Simms

Starring: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen

Tagline: “The Next Chapter is Always the Best”

Trivia: The set for the lingerie shop had to be improvised at very short notice. All the lingerie items displayed belong to writer/producer Erin Simms.

The truth is that I should have given this movie less stars, but I could not do that to these legendary women who had to act out this script. This would be adding insult to injury to these women, who I adore, and are the only reason this movie should be even considered on a watch list.

Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen can do nothing to rescue this charmless luxury lifestyle of four friends who “relight their fire” after reading “50 Shades of Grey”.

Having sold a gazillion copies and been made into three movies, the Fifty Shades trilogy now receives a product-placement tribute in Book Club. Just to show us writers, that many times success has nothing to do with the quality of our writing but how we package and market it (ouch…)

One can argue that any Hollywood film that acknowledges older women as sexual beings is a good thing.

You could strengthen that argument by the fact that, since the industry routinely drapes the likes of Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman with Vegas totty in the name of entertainment, surely Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda can do the same. 

But just as Hollywood insists that its older actresses can be shown only when they conform to the body standards of women many decades younger, which makes Fonda and co. look incredible, but unlike most women north of 70 – thus the movie industry limits this collection of formidable acting talent into the same kind of screamingly obvious rom-com premise that female actors of every age group have to endure.

The four members in the titular book club of Book Club are four women who have been meeting once a month to drink wine and talk about a book.

They started in the ’70s with Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying” and have just turned their attention to E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey.” 

There’s a lot of literary and social history in the span between those two best sellers, which take their heroines from “zipless” adultery to handcuffed monogamy, from elusive liberation to consensual bondage.

But this movie isn’t much concerned with the novels themselves. The stories it has to tell about feminism and female sexuality are left mainly implicit in the script because they are written in the faces of its stars.

Under the flat, utilitarian direction of Bill Holderman, who wrote the alternately sharp and mushy screenplay with Erin Simms, the film interweaves its gags (Viagra warning!) with lessons in self-worth, often pushing too insistently.

As far as it goes, Book Club is a mostly painless ride, with a few laugh-out-loud moments, but as Peggy Lee memorably sang, “Is that all there is?”

It’s sad to think that these fantastic talents are being diminished into these roles that insult their intelligent.

At least Jane Fonda can hang on to her memorable parts in Grace & Frankie where she is being treated with respect and has amazing scenes to show us what being over 70 actually means in our society. But what about the rest of this gifted ensemble?

Verdict – 2.5/5 Stars in my book

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