Book Club

2018-06-29 06:07


Diane Keaton is recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. Vivian enjoys her men with no strings attached. Sharon is still working through a decades-old divorce. Carol’s marriage is in a slump after 35 years. The lives of these four lifelong friends are turned upside-down after reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ catapults them into a series of outrageous life choices. From discovering new romance to rekindling old flames, they’re each inspired by the scandalous text to hilarious ends.


The title and poster of Book Club might sound like quite a boring film for anyone under the age of 40 (my millennial self included), but with a cast that will leave you bent all kinds of sideways with blunt hilarity makes this a film anyone can enjoy.

The lead cast of veteran stars - Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen – and their equally stellar supporting cast will have you in stitches while also giving some lessons about relationships that are useful to any generation. This is probably also the only movie with Fifty Shades of Grey in it that won’t cast you into a black hole of cringe.

Four friends have been running a book club for over 30 years, and in their mature years each is facing different dilemmas in their relationships – Diane (Keaton) is recently widowed and is fighting off the smothering nurture of her two daughters; Vivian (Fonda) is a successful businesswoman who loves her independence when she runs into a former almost-fiancé; Sharon (Bergen) lives for her work as a judge and is getting back into the dating game 18 years since her divorce, and Carol (Steenburgen) is feeling the cold when the intimacy in her marriage is lacking since her husband’s retirement. They start to feel an awakening after starting the Fifty Shades trilogy for their book club.

Each of the four deals with very different relationship scenarios that makes it relatable to many – and not just older women. While it may sound a little banal to include such an atrociously written and controversial series such as Fifty Shades into the movie, the context it is placed in help show why the naughty exploits of Christian Grey gained such a mainstream appeal, specifically in an older generation that wants to break away from old traditional societal norms. The women from the Book Club are all intelligent, successful in their own rights and strong, but the movie doesn’t try to hide their flaws, showing some real women that are balanced instead of being either goddesses or trainwrecks.

It also helps though that the film is hilarious. I struggled to breathe so many times when a zinger from Bergen flies out of nowhere, and Steenburgen also threw out a few surprising ones that almost had me on the floor (Cave of Lost Dreams will never be the same again). It’s quite surprising when you find out that this is the writing and directorial debut of producer Bill Holderman (produced many Robert Redford movies), who wrote the script alongside his co-producer Erin Simms.

It’s even more surprising that it was written by people in their mid-30s, which is why Book Club feels so youthful yet mature in its messaging. Unsurprisingly though, it took them years to get anyone to greenlight the film, because apparently no-one thought a group of over-60 women talking about sex would sell tickets. It had a tiny budget and they filmed for only a month – and what came out of it was just another reason why our veteran actresses need more leading roles.

I was also impressed with the men in the story. For a change they didn’t lose their IQ – which happens quite often in rom-coms with older men – and each had their own layers of emotional insecurity that makes them quite endearing. Andy Garcia, Craig T Nelson, Don Johnson and Richard Dreyfuss (though his appearance may be short) were all a great support team that didn’t show any signs of feeling threatened by their various leading ladies – another sign that Hollywood needs to take a few lessons from what Simms and Holderman has created despite the very real obstacles of the industry.

Book Club can really be watched by anyone, although it may lean a bit more towards a feminine audience, many of the male critics laughed just as hard as me in the cinema.

One poignant storyline was Diane’s daughters constantly judging her ‘frailty’ and that she needs to be protected by them, and it feels very much how Hollywood sometimes treat its older women stars – as someone who has reached the end of their shelf date and needs to retire to a basement somewhere – but Book Club proves yet again where they can put the proverbial basement.

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