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Book Club Review

"Not the greatest film from these great actresses, but they looked like they had fun"
'Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.' - Mark Twain In the early part of the 1900’s, the phrase ‘Life begins at 40’ was popularized by psychologist Walter Pitkin and solidified in the minds of a generation with the Will Rogers film of the same name. As the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer stated, “The first forty years of life give us the text: the next thirty give the commentary.” As we move into the second decade of the 2000s and basing things on recent films, the original quote should be changed to ‘Life begins at 60.’ Book Club builds on this premise of the value of the commentary lived by women who are given new beginnings at life after 60.  For four friends who have been traveling through the highs and lows of life together for over thirty years, the one constant for them has been their weekly book club. This group has managed to be the therapeutic element during all of the marriages, children, divorces, careers and deaths that have molded the lives of these influential women. With the mood brought on by the recent passing of Diane’s (Diane Keaton) husband and some of the less than inspiring book choices, Vivian (Jane Fonda) decides to add a bit of spice back into the group by introducing the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy into the mix.  Despite the initial hesitation from her friends, the four women decide to give the first book a read. The titillating book series has varied effects on all of their relationships and unearth’s feelings that had been buried for years. Vivian must confront her long-lost love and lingering desire for  Arthur (Don Johnson), while Diane has to deal with her overly involved daughters during a secretly burgeoning escapade with Mitchell (Andy Garcia). All the while, their friend Sharon (Candice Bergen) attempts to put herself back ‘on the market’ and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) tries to put the spice back into her marriage with Bruce (Craig T. Nelson). Leading to a series of events that causes all of these sophisticated and successful women to come to terms with love in this season of life.  With all that being said, Book Club can be summarized by saying these mature women meet for a book club each week and one book series lights a fire in all of their lives. Is this a subtle marketing campaign by E.L. James’ publisher or an excuse to get these four award-winning actresses together for some comedic and romantic fun? It is hard to know, but whatever the initial plan, the two things that this film offers is a statement for women of mature stature that life can start or at least re-start at any point and there is more to relationships than just sex. The story does contain a multitude of opportunities for innuendo and some of the jokes do try too hard to be humorous, but it ends up being a forgettable, harmless and surprisingly amusing journey.  For first-time director Bill Holderman, the key advantage to working with this stellar cast is that despite the weak and unoriginal script, they seem to be having fun on screen. It is a tale of privileged white women that is predictable and relies on a multitude of scenes of talking about the book and relationships over wine, but these actresses show their ability to save a film. Each gag and relational conundrum seem to be taken from other romantic or family comedies which were especially evident when the script utilized a classic Mary Steenburgen scene from Parenthood or the overly awkward plane scene between Keeton and Garcia.  [caption id="attachment_103236" align="aligncenter" width="600"] (L-R) Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures[/caption] The direction and writing seem to be below this esteemed cast, but if anything they seemed to be having a ball working together. With the inclusion of the less than tasteful book series, things seem to be a set up for an overly sexualized senior’s tale, but the overall journey does have some merit and provides a few laughs along the way. This film may not be the pinnacle of any of these ladies careers, but it does offer some youthful giggles and a reminder that it is never too late to start living life.
  • Great cast
  • Seem to enjoy having time together on screen
  • Weak script and predictable storyline


Meet the Author

About / Bio
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Russell is an American ex-pat who has been transplanted in his new home of Sydney. He is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and the blog Russelling Reviews. He moderates events called Reel Dialogue (reeldialogue.com) which connects the film industry with the general public.

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