When David and I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in August 2016, I left behind an unbelievable group of women who comprised our book club. The first trailer for BOOK CLUB immediately made me homesick --- and I knew I had to see it. Of course, it's must viewing for the rest of the club. Though our group was larger by five, it very much resembles this foursome --- all the food and definitely LOTS of wine! Now we both belong to a remarkable book club in LA, and our female members are equally pumped about seeing BOOK CLUB.
Can a book like "Fifty Shades of Grey" really change the lives of these four women? Who knows --- who cares? The fun is in the journey. Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) have been friends since college, experiencing life, death and divorce. Now they are in their 60s and they all need a change.
Diane, recently widowed after 40 years, has two daughters living in Arizona. They are strident in their demand that their mother leave LA and join them there. A basement has been converted for Diane with a walk-in tub --- woo hoo! On one of her visits to Scottsdale, she ends up sitting next to Mitchell (Andy Garcia) on an airplane, who is almost immediately smitten by her zaniness.
Vivian owns an exclusive hotel in LA and has never married. Many years ago, a young Vivian refused a proposal of marriage from Arthur (Don Johnson), who 40 years later has shown up as a guest at her property. He tries valiantly to woo her, but after so many years alone, Vivian is very apprehensive about committing --- to anyone.
Sharon, a federal judge, has been divorced from Tom (Ed Begley Jr.) for eons and has no desire to date. Encouraged by the others, and on a dare from Vivian, she joins an online dating site, and the "fun" ensues. And Carol is dealing with her husband, Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), who is no longer interested in sex.
As I've written often, romantic comedies are the most difficult to pen. Screenwriters Erin Simms and Bill Holderman, who also directs, have managed the near impossible. There are truly quite a few laugh-out-loud scenes, and they're not all in the trailers!
One of my favorites involves Diane and Mitchell on the plane to Arizona. I won't divulge the details, but it reminded me of a Saturday night so long ago when my girlfriend and I went to see JAWS. The movie theater was packed and we had to split up. I ended up sitting next to a man and his wife, and during one of the most terrifying scenes, I grabbed this poor guy's leg so hard --- by mistake, of course. Anyway, think of that and imagine what Diane does --- only worse! Ha!
Per usual, there are some rather silly moments, but all in all, BOOK CLUB is fun for women --- and men --- of all ages. David will write that it's a "chick flick" --- a term I abhor --- but, as always, he's wrong. He laughed --- a lot!
Bergen, Fonda, Keaton and Steenburgen are all fantastic --- and well cast. It seems like they were all having a blast. And the guys are great, too. Johnson and Garcia still look fab, and Richard Dreyfuss has a sweet part as George, one of Sharon's online dates. Wallace Shawn, who is EVERYWHERE these days, is another date. My only complaint is that they didn't cast someone like Tom Selleck to romance Bergen. That would have been so much better. Sigh ---
Alright, women of a certain age --- grab your girlfriends and get to the nearest movie theater. BOOK CLUB will make you laugh!
Opinion: See It Now!
With a cast that includes Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss, Craig T. Nelson, Ed Begley Jr. and Wallace Shawn, one word comes to mind --- consummate (i.e., accomplished, gifted, talented, flawless). That the director of their new film, BOOK CLUB, is a first-timer, Bill Holderman, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is irrelevant. He doesn't screw it up!
At first glance, BOOK CLUB might be considered a "chick flick" that focuses on older women in their sixties. This will appeal to all female audiences, including younger ones who can still identify with, and appreciate, the humor and pathos. However, since the film also touches on men's issues, it's not really a chick flick. In the process, it manages to avoid the cliches of getting older for both sexes.
The women's problems are centered on their sex lives, or lack thereof. When Vivian (Fonda) introduces the book club to "50 Shades of Grey" for their next choice, the ladies' primal need for physical closeness is awakened, and they are decisive in their actions.
Federal judge Sharon (Bergen), 18 years without a man since her divorce from Tom (Begley Jr.), subscribes to an online dating service. Diane, newly widowed, finds unexpected companionship with wealthy pilot Mitchell (Garcia). Carol (Steenburgen), who hasn't had sex with husband Bruce (Nelson) for six months, goes the Viagra route. And Vivian, a hotel magnate who is also commitment phobic, runs into old flame Arthur (Johnson) with slower, but still predictable results, even as she laments that "he hasn't seen my body in 40 years!".
So what about the men? Bruce's excuse for no sexual desire is his retirement after 40 years, making him feel inadequate. Mitchell has all the material trappings, including a luxury home and a private plane, but he still is unfulfilled. On the plus side, in this story, Tom finds love with a much younger woman, Cheryl (Mircea Monroe), and I'm pleased to say this is handled with respect rather than ridicule.
BOOK CLUB is laden with humor everywhere. At our screening, I was sandwiched between Jeanne and another woman who guffawed from the very first scene. (Go to enough screenings and you get used to this sort of thing). Admittedly, there is a lot to laugh at. When Diane stumbles onto a sleeping Mitchell, occupying the middle seat on a plane, trying to get to her window seat, it's very funny. Bruce's reaction to his surprise Viagra pill is amusing. And Sharon's "oops" snapshot on her dating site is a running gag that works.
Diane has daughters Jill (Alicia Silverstone) and Adrianne (Katie Aselton) who continually treat her like a child incapable of taking care of herself, until Diane puts the kibosh on that. This part of the script is also handled sensibly, unlike the adult children in the very bad The Leisure Seeker who act like idiots.
It is really a great thing to see this group of veteran actors in one film. Their old black-and-white photos are a bonus. Fonda looks amazing, but fans of her Grace and Frankie Netflix show already knew that. Keaton looks like she just stepped off the set of ANNIE HALL. Steenburgen looks phenomenal in her mini-skirted waitress outfit, and Bergen is still beautiful all these years after MURPHY BROWN.
As for the men, Johnson is in great shape and still has wonderful comedic timing and screen presence. Dreyfuss has been away from film for too long, but he has no fewer than eight movies in various stages of production. And Garcia is perfect as Mitchell. Ordinarily I don't care for these ensemble romantic comedies, but BOOK CLUB is an exception.
Opinion: See It Now!