Target demographic for this movie
Target demographic for this movie

MOVIE REVIEW: Book Club is much less cringey than expected

OH MY my. Mature women getting in on the Fifty Shades action? That sounds like the worst premise for a non-parody movie.

Fortunately, very little of Book Club is actually about the bedroom shenanigans of Christian Grey and what's-her-name. Unfortunately, Book Club is only marginally better than the Fifty Shades trilogy, wasting its roster of talented and magnetic female legends.

For 40 years, friends Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Sharon (Candice Bergen) have met up for a monthly book club in which the wine flows as freely as the conversation and confidences.

When one of them suggests the next title, Fifty Shades of Grey, the others scoff. But the book turns out to be a wake-up call - every one of them seems to be stuck in some kind of rut.

Diane's husband died not long ago and her two adult daughters are trying to make her move to Arizona, where they live, and away from her home in California, fearing their mother will meet all kinds of perilous ends, you know, because of her advanced age.

When she meets the handsome Mitchell (Andy Garcia), she becomes open to a possibility she long ago discarded.

Look! Old women can have fun too!
Look! Old women can have fun too!

Hotelier and heartbreaker Vivian runs into an old flame, Arthur (Don Johnson), a man she hasn't seen in four decades. He tries to woo her with romantic gestures but Vivian is afraid of genuinely connecting with someone. She says she's great at forecasting risk, having saved herself a lot of divorce money by never having married.

Carol is happily married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), or so she thought. Ever since Bruce retired, he seems to be a loss and has no interest in sparking things up in the bedroom or "crazy hot sex".

Sharon has had a successful career as a federal judge (her Ruth Bader Ginsberg bobble-head is easily the best thing in this movie) but she hasn't been so lucky in love. Having gone through a divorce almost two decades ago, she's finally ready to put herself back out there. So, naturally, in 2018, that involves a dating app.

If those descriptions read generic, it's because they are. Despite boasting four incredible actors who deserve so much better, every one of them is saddled with an unimaginative challenge to overcome. They're archetypes and they're not very interesting ones.

 

Between this and Mamma Mia, Andy Garcia is gunning hard for the senior heart-throb 2018 title.
Between this and Mamma Mia, Andy Garcia is gunning hard for the senior heart-throb 2018 title.

The scenarios are all-too familiar - Sharon accidentally takes her dating profile photo while wearing a face mask, her ex-husband is dating a much, much younger blonde and Bruce would rather tinker with an old motorcycle than be at dance class. It's a lot of been-there-done-that, and with a Nancy Meyers-esque shiny veneer thrown in.

Women in Hollywood have always struggled to nab meaty, emotionally resonant roles after turning 40, so to have four over-65 female thespians of this calibre in the one place and not give them something less mediocre is a lost opportunity.

But you know what? Book Club will still be a crowd pleaser for a certain audience. The screening I went to had many older women in the cinema and they were clearly having a grand time.

Howls of laughter were not rare - I guess they liked that Diane Keaton can accidentally grab Andy Garcia's crotch, an act that not long ago would've been met with tsk-tsks. Is this what senior sexual liberation looks like? At least no one whipped out any chains.

It may less cringey than expected but you'd be better off watching Grace & Frankie on repeat.

Rating: ★★

Book Club is in cinemas now.

Share your movies and TV obsessions with @wenleima on Twitter.



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