The Book Club- Review

August 8, 2018

Over 50? Over 50 Shades of Grey? Book Club could be the movie for you.

With a stellar cast of well-over-60s – Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen – as old friends, and E. L. James’ infamous 50 Shades of Grey as their next book club choice, this rom-com was never going to be short on personality or sassy dialogue. It’s not short on wine, either.

In a scenario that feels vaguely like a mature-age Sex in the City, each woman is at a different stage of her older-woman’s love life.

Bergen steals the show as Sharon, an acerbic federal judge, long-term divorcee and cat-owner who has given up on relationships; Fonda’s Vivian is a wealthy hotel owner with a voracious appetite for sex but none for commitment; Diane (Keaton, in a part that was written for her) is recently widowed after 40 years of marriage; and Carol (Steenburgen) is happily married but bored in the bedroom.

The group’s initial reactions to the book range from hilarity, disparagement (“We started this book club to stimulate our minds. I’m not even sure this qualifies as a book”, fumes Carol) and embarrassment (Diane claims it’s Moby Dick when questioned by a good-looking man on a plane).

Spurred on by 50 Shades of Grey, the friends find old flames rekindled and forgotten passions stirred.

It’s not great art, but it’s great fun. Dismiss your inner critic; ignore the pedestrian plot and obvious gags. The interplay between the four woman is warm, engaging and funny and there are strong supporting performances, particularly from the love interests played by Richard Dreyfuss, Don Johnson, Andy Garcia and Craig T. Nelson.

Book Club has some witty observations about ageing bodies and flagging libidos (of note is Carol’s comparison of part of her anatomy to Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams).

There are some important messages too. These older women will not ‘go gentle into that good night’.  Despite the wrinkles (and, happily, there were some in evidence), life isn’t over after we hit 60 and we are not defined by others’ expectations of us. We can navigate unexplored territory, take risks and uncover parts ourselves that have lain undiscovered or hidden for decades – including love and sexuality.

Watch out for Jane Fonda’s thigh-high Klute-esque boots; Diane Keaton’s signature mannish dress sense and Steenburgen’s reprise of her tap dance routine from Melvin and Howard. Keep an ear open for great snatches of music by Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, Crowded House and Meatloaf. And how can you not find a little love for a rom-com that quotes Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost and Shakespeare?

Written by Bill Holderman (A Walk in the Woods) and Erin Sims, Book Club is also Holderman’s directorial debut. Book Club is in Australian cinemas from 9 August. It runs for 104 minutes.

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