It’s never too late to choose your own adventure. Every month, a foursome of best friends who met in college in Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candace Bergen), and Carol (Mary Steenberger) get together for a Book Club. During it, they discuss what they just read as well as their everyday happenings as successful, yet semi-troubled, sixty-something women.
Their latest meeting sees Vivian introduce a little book known as Fifty Shades of Grey to truly spice up their imaginations. And that it does, as each of the ladies begin to dissect their problems and pressing matters more deeply, be it Diane rebuilding her life as a widow, Sharon attempting to do the same many years after a divorce, Vivian trying to come with grips over something that occurred 40 years ago, or Carol trying to rekindle a doormat sex life with husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson). Each problem is different, but if EL James’ novel is teaching them only one thing, it’s that age is no reason to stop living.
Who says old people fun can only be had by the men? Over the last few years, Hollywood has been showing audiences that it’s never too late for old dogs to learn new tricks or refuse to resign themselves to their fates in Last Vegas, Stand Up Guys, and Going in Style. With Book Club, the formula isn’t too different from the episodic hijinks that made Golden Girls uber-popular. That’s not a bad thing at all since Golden Girls was a good show, and Book Club is an undemanding comedy with some hearty laughs.
A longtime producer of documentaries, Bill Holderman steps into the directorial seat for the first time in his career along with co-writing a screenplay for only the second time. Obviously, there’s little that will impress from a technical perspective, though outside of a five-minute info-dumping intro and a flying sequence against noticeable green screen, Holderman has a good handle on editing, which is kind of important here as Book Club often jumps from one woman to another in a clockwork fashion. Overall, there’s a good pace that the film carries, but it isn’t immune from the feeling many comedies have in the final act, that being their length (1:44 here) is felt substantially in the last 30 minutes.
What Holderman does do is get out of the way and let his veterans do much of the heavy lifting. Whether written line for line and recited verbatim or leaving his cast to freewheel off the cuff, the end results are the same. The verbal exchanges that take place between Keaton, Bergen, Steenberger, and Fonda are rarely dull and very balanced, in the way that no one character is reduced to be the go-to-one for laughs. Much like last year’s Girls Club, these women appear to be legitimately enjoying each other to the point where an audience feels like they’re laughing with them. Seriously, some of the chuckles and reactions look as if they’re left in the final cut, and it just adds to this energy and good vibe the movie carries. Even if one isn’t as old as these women, there’s a level of relatability they carry regardless of age.
It’s a woman’s world in Book Club, but they’d be nothing without a man or boy. Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, and Richard Dreyfuss all play supporting roles that rightfully never overshadow the females, nevertheless; they are fairly memorable in their own right—especially Garcia—a delight as a sarcastic and debonair pilot. They, like their female counterparts, feel like real characters. The only characters that don’t are Diane’s daughters, played by Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton. They’re saddled with the “Mom, you’re too old” and You’ll break your bones every step you take” jokes. It’s old after the first time heard.
Pulitzer Prize worthy, Book Club is not. However, as counterprogramming and even just comedy options go, this is an adequate one. Your mom will enjoy, and maybe you will, too.
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