Book Club: The Movie
I got a chance to see Book Club, the star-studded comedy that opens today, at a free preview screening on Tuesday. They know their target audience — 85% of the full theater was white-haired ladies, who were encouraged to tell their friends about the movie.
In case you’ve been distracted by all the explode-y blockbusters, Book Club is counter-programming. It stars Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen as long-time friends who decide to read Fifty Shades of Grey, and talking more explicitly about sex (not specifically the book) revitalizes their love lives. It was a fun, funny night out at the movies, the kind of film that doesn’t get made much any more, since it foregrounds the lives of older women as interesting and diverse.
Aside from all the sex references, it’s a conventional film, and that’s why it’s enjoyable. For almost two hours, you can see talented actresses running a gamut of emotion in lovely settings, with plenty of jokes.
Bergen (my favorite) gets mostly comedy, as she plays a judge who hasn’t dated in 18 years. Her divorced husband has taken up with a much younger blonde, and their son is getting engaged, so she tries online dating (meeting up with Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn). She was my favorite in the movie, willing to look silly for humor, and it’s such a pleasure to see her again, with her dry comments.
Keaton’s plotline is more romantic. Her husband has passed away, and her grown daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton; yes, Silverstone gets to look confused in a major scene, her best skill), with kids of their own, want her to move to Arizona to be closer to them. On the trip, she meets a handsome gentleman (Andy Garcia) when she falls into his lap trying to get to her airplane seat. (The two actors do a masterful job making a scene where they accidentally end up groping each other seem plausible.) Her friends encourage her to date again.
Steenburgen and her husband (Craig T. Nelson) have recently both retired, and she’s looking forward to spending more time with him, while he is spending time in his garage fixing up his old motorcycle. Their plotline is the most dramatic, and of the least interest to me, although the climax does turn on a Meat Loaf song, so bonus points for that. Fonda is the most cartoonish and yet most different character, a happily sexual woman who doesn’t want to settle down with anyone, and the owner of a large, successful hotel. That’s where she bumps into old flame Don Johnson, back in town after 40 years.
The movie was written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms and directed by Holderman, a first-timer, and they do a competent job. (This review talks about that in more detail, while this piece points out Keaton is playing herself and why that’s great.) There are few surprises, but an overall good time is had by everyone. Sometimes, that’s just what I want when I go to the movies.