Book Club (2018)
Directed by: Bill Holderman | 104 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Ed Begley Jr., Richard Dreyfuss, Wallace Shawn, Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton, Mircea Monroe, Tommy Dewey, John Shartzer , Ravi Kapoor, Lili Bordán, Marisa Chen Moller
For those who are afraid that the fun is over once you have passed sixty; don’t be afraid. There’s a whole Hollywood trend going on to prove that seniors also enjoy life and are open to new friendships and relationships. And yes, they even have sex. Movies like ‘It’s Complicated’ (2009), ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ (2011) and its sequel (2015), ‘Hope Springs’ (2012) and ‘And So It Goes’ (2014) eagerly jump on this trend and since the group of over-50s can be found more and more often in cinemas, this type of film scores very well. The latest offshoot on this tree is ‘Book Club’ (2018) by debut director Bill Holderman, who is said to have been inspired by his own mother. For Mother’s Day, he gifted her EL James’ “Fifty Shades” trilogy, much to the surprise of his co-screenwriter Erin Simms. But Ma Holderman was actually very happy with the gift; since she is still in the middle of life and fully sexually active, it was a great source of inspiration for her. And so there are many more women (and men) over sixty who still embrace their sexuality, Holderman must have thought. Other women also received a book and the idea for the film was born.
Book Club stars four great aging actresses together for the first time in a movie: Oscar winners Diane Keaton (“Annie Hall”, 1977), Mary Steenburgen (“Melvin and Howard”, 1980) and Jane Fonda (“Klute” ( 1971) and ‘Coming Home’ (1978)) and Oscar-nominated Candice Bergen (‘Starting Over’, 1979) are practically Hollywood royalty with their track record. In ‘Book Club’ they form a group of friends who get together once a month to discuss a book – while enjoying a good glass of wine (because in this film there is wine in just about every scene!) They are all successful women. Vivian (Jane Fonda) has been running a luxury hotel in Los Angeles for years; she does not complain about male attention and she is still very active sexually. But committing to a man is her worst nightmare. At least, that’s what she thinks herself. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a widely respected judge who has completely renounced men for 18 years after an unhappy marriage and divorce. Her ex (Ed Begley Jr.), whose name she still bears, has already hooked up a young thing, but Sharon herself is not exactly open to a new relationship. Carol (Mary Steenburgen), a chef with her own restaurant, has been happily married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) for years, but the grind is lurking and the passion seems to have died down a bit. Finally, Diane (Diane Keaton) has recently been widowed and is kept so out of the wind by her two grown daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton) that she feels oppressed.
The lives of these four people in their late sixties (in real life only Steenburgen is still in their sixties and Fonda has even passed eighty! Although you wouldn’t give her that, by the way) is turned upside down when Vivian with the book ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is coming up. At first they don’t like it, but that resistance soon turns into unbridled enthusiasm. Vivian runs into her old flame Arthur (Don Johnson); would he be able to tame her and get rid of her fear of commitment? Carol desperately tries to revive her shattered sex life by secretly giving Bruce Viagra, but does he thank her for it…? Sharon takes off her mask of cynicism and self-protection to venture into online dating. A date with George (Richard Dreyfuss) turns out to do wonders for her confidence. And Diane runs into charming pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia), for whom she sheds her trepidation. Does she dare to tell her daughters that she is tired of their patronizing and that despite her grief for her deceased husband, she is entitled to new happiness?
‘Book Club’ is such a film that is very easy to watch. This is partly due to the recognizable issues, but also to the talent of the refined cast. The protagonists, but also their male counterparts, radiate a lot of fun and that is contagious. That is why we like to condone the sometimes very easily made innuendo and vulgar sex jokes. By the way, there are also plenty of jokes that do work. The storylines of the four women are not all equally well developed; Vivian’s in particular could have been highlighted a bit better. The actresses do what they do best and play roles that suit them; We know Keaton as the neurotic child woman, Fonda as a powerful, confident woman and Bergen is cynical, determined and combative as we know her from ‘Murphy Brown’. Why should you also deviate from tried and tested success formulas? So ‘Book Club’ is not surprising or original; anyone who expects the usual senior jokes about viagra, corsets and ‘lethargic pussies’ will be served at his beck and call. But at times ‘Book Club’ manages to touch us, despite those platitudes. We sincerely hope that Diane will dare to take the plunge with Mitchell (Andy Garcia was rarely more charming), we keep our fingers crossed for Carol that she will finally be loved by her husband again, we give Sharon her second chance at love and we wish Vivian manages to get over her fear of commitment.
‘Book Club’ is not a memorable film, but it does have a high entertainment value. The story does not excel in originality and the jokes are sometimes close to farcical and vulgar, but the natural and lively interplay of the four protagonists, and their male counterparts, covers the shortcomings of this film with the cloak of love.