Movie Review: Book Club

A dream cast of older actresses is saddled with a nightmare script

Book Club (Dámský klub)
Directed by Bill Holderman
With Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Andy García, Don Johnson

Older actresses seldom get starring roles. Book Club puts four great actresses together for a romantic comedy, which is a great concept. But along the way, someone forgot to bring the jokes and the romance.

The basic premise is that four friends have had a book club since the 1970s, and meet once a month to drink copious amounts of white wine and discuss the recent selection. The wild one of the group, Vivian (played by Jane Fonda) selects Fifty Shades of Grey, and the four women's lives get turned upside down.

The women all met in college, and each has her own career path. Vivian owns a large hotel, Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a federal judge, Diane (Diane Keaton) recently lost her husband and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is a suburban housewife.

Vivian has sex with a variety of people but has no love in her life. Sharon and Diane are both single, and Carol's husband has lost interest in sex.

By this time, the Fifty Shades of Grey craze has petered out a bit, and there have already been three films actually based on the books. The opening, with the women being shocked while reading goes on way too long, and is quite predictable.

The women find their interests in life reawakened due to the book, though. Their four stories are juggled for the duration of the film.

Vivian runs into an old handsome flame named Arthur (Don Johnson), Sharon tries online dating, Diane meets a stranger on a plane named Mitchell (Andy Garcia) and Carol tries to spark her husband, Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) back into action.

The plots never rise above TV movie level. Diane's is the most developed, as she is caught between her overprotective adult children, Jill and Adrianne (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton) and her own desire for a new chapter in her life.

Andy Garcia has the best of the male roles and is able to show off some of his charisma. Keaton does a bit of riff on her quirky Annie Hall type character, someone who is not a conformist at heart. As an older and more mature person, who despite compromises along the way, she still wants to march to her own tune.

Jane Fonda is the biggest of the four stars, but her character's story goes nowhere. There is not enough backstory to explain how Vivian and Arthur met, why they split and why they should get back together. The fancy hotel setting adds a hint of glamour, and they have a couple of cute scenes together, but it should have gone beneath the surface to show some real emotion.

Candice Bergen is good at broad comedy, and she gets thrown into what should have been a humorous plot about the perils of the internet. But, just like the overall premise of being shocked at Fifty Shades of Grey, the idea has already been done to death.

The best the writers can come up with is that one of her dates, a doctor played by Wallace Shawn, is short and bald and therefore too embarrassing to be seen with.

Last and least is Carol. (Spoiler alert) In a plot that was really not thought out at all, she drugs her husband's drink in a public place. The mind boggles at how anyone could think this is funny, even with the genders reversed.

Carol knows her husband does not like public attention, and yet her efforts to restart their marriage all involve opening him up to humiliation — and she is surprised they don't work.

The film is really a long list of lost opportunities. These four actresses have all done fantastic work on the big and small screen, and with some proper material that has some depth, they could have shown that older actresses deserve roles as much as older actors do.

But Book Club never dares to go beyond the obvious, and wastes the time of all involved, including the audience. 

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