FilmReview – Book Club (2018)

Grey seems to be the “in” colour at the cinema.  Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland hit the road for The Leisure Seeker not so long ago, last month Sheila Hancock took on a Scottish mountain in Edie and now we have four A listers doing something less strenuous – in theory – in Book Club.

The stars this time are Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen but the book offers more in terms of physical exercise than you might expect.  It’s Fifty Shades of Grey – that colour again! – and it’s Fonda’s bright idea to introduce the best seller to her friends, who meet every month for their book club.  Needless to say, it changes all their lives.  Well, what else would it do?

Meet the film that should have been called Senior Sex In The City.  It could also have been dubbed Wine Club, given the amount of bottles the four of them put away.  There’s hardly a scene where they’re not getting stuck into some Chardonnay or Merlot and the most remarkable thing is that the booze never seems to have any effect on them, despite the massive glasses they quaff from.  Those alternative titles are a strong indicator of the film’s cliché count.  It’s remarkably high. Getting to grips with Spanx.  Resurrecting old romances.  Double entendres by the score, especially in the context of a motorbike – a cliché in its own right as it’s being ridden by an older man.  The effects of Viagra and being stopped by a traffic cop when it’s really showing.  The over-protective grown up children.  In fact, the only one they don’t include is one of them being a cougar with a younger man in tow.  Thankfully the director and writers resisted it.  If only they’d felt the same about most of the others.

Despite the emphasis on sex – and the four women talk about it an awful lot – it’s a surprisingly sexless and passionless film.  Diane Keaton, playing exactly the same part as she did in Hampstead – and probably wearing the same floppy beret as well – falls for suave airline pilot Andy Garcia.  Vivian (Fonda) has made a career out of being single and then re-ignites an affair from 40 years ago with Don Johnson.  Candice Bergen’s Sharon, a court judge in her professional life, goes in for on-line dating and meets tax accountant Richard Dreyfuss.  Mary Steenbergen’s Carol is the only one who’s married, to Craig T Nelson, and the spark has most definitely gone, even if they do still love each other.  But all four relationships are remarkably passionless, devoid of much in the way of feeling – even when Bergen and Dreyfuss get up to all kinds of shenanigans in the back seat of her car!  Any kisses are ice cold and the whole thing is unconvincing.

Put simply, it’s short on both rom and com.  Any efforts to be funny, and that includes the double entendres, mainly fall flat.  The occasional chuckle might rise to the surface, but that’s about all and the culprit is the script.  The four leads, plus their familiar male partners, do their best with what they’re given but they’re on a hiding to nothing (with or without that book).  Let’s hope they enjoyed themselves while they were making the movie.

Given all the acting talents involved here, Book Club is pretty charmless stuff and a criminal waste, because we all know the cast can do so much better.  There’s no point in tearing it completely to shreds, because I simply don’t care enough about it.  You probably won’t either.

Freda Cooper | [rating=2]

Romance, Comedy | 12A | UK, 1 June (2018) | Paramount Pictures | Dir. Bill Holderman| Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenbergen, Craig T Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Don Johnson and Andy Garcia.