TWO STARS Four older women start reading Fifty Shades and re-examine their relationships and sex lives.
Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton
There are three and a half reasons to see this movie, and they are the cast. In all other respects, BOOK CLUB is a dated, lazy mess of a film that has no good reason for being. Even then, the fine cast deserve so much better than Bill Holderman’s by-the-numbers comedy. You’d be angry at the wasted opportunity if he’d given you a reason to care in the first place.
Leaning heavily on the Nancy Meyers’ ‘realist’ comedy of the nineties, that’s to say having characters behave just like regular folk, Holderman’s version of risqué is having pensioners talk about sex. Of course, Meyers was a force some twenty years ago and today oldies talking dirty is no longer shocking or funny, and thinking that way is mostly patronising.
And so it begins at the monthly book club when four women (Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen) start reading E.M. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy. Ooo, sexy bits! The book springboards what’s meant to be an exploration of what women want from romance, relationships and sex, particularly when they’re touching seventy.
So far so Grace and Frankie. And right there the problem. The ground-breaking* Netflix series has already got this covered and does so with more dignity, wit, charm and humour in the opening scene than BOOK CLUB can hope to achieve in it’s over-wrought runtime. It doesn’t help that Fonda has simply brought her TV character to the big screen, or that Holderman’s script has nothing better than trite fridge-magnet aphorisms when it comes to understanding sex-and-relationships. We’ll leave the clumsy plotting, unrealistic life-styles and corny, bow-tied endings for another discussion (or maybe not bother at all).
The secret of Grace and Frankie’s success lies with the writer’s interest in how older people cope with growing older, not simply having septuagenarian’s saying penis and vagina for our titilation. That’s what made it *groundbreaking. Not so much here. Granted there’s some considerable pleasure in watching Fonda, Steenburgen, Bergen and, to a lesser extent, Keaton bounce off one another. They’re having a great time and there’s almost enough dazzle from the collective star power to distract you from the car crash unfolding around them. But in the end, there isn’t and they don’t.