Book Club is exactly what its trailer says it is. Four ladies read 50 Shades of Grey for their monthly book club, leading all of them to make changes in their love lives. Incredibly cheesy? Check. Predictable as hell? Double check. While watching the four legends that are Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen on screen is never a chore, Book Club feels formulaic and phoned in for a film that could’ve been so much more.
I’m all for a cheesy rom-com, but Book Club often feels like it’s just stepped out of the early aughts. The friends, all over 60, all have fabulous careers living in lush and beautiful homes around Los Angeles, bringing to mind Nancy Meyers’ signature locations. They each face different problems. Vivian (Fonda) is a wealthy hotel owner who prefers sex with no emotion, until an old flame played by Don Johnson reappears in her life. Sharon (Bergen) is a federal judge who’s sworn off men after her divorce 20 years prior. Diane (Keaton) is a recent widow whose daughters keep hounding her to move in with them in Arizona, pushing her to retire from life, while a charming Andy Garcia tries to convince her to keep exploring. Finally, Carol (Steenburgen) is a chef and restaurant owner stuck in a rut with her recently retired husband, Bruce (Craig T. Nelson).
It’s weird. Book Club’s schtick is that this is a rom-com for older women. But…they’ve changed nothing else. While it’s refreshing to see ladies over 60 on screen with exciting professional and personal lives, everything else feels the same. And, in case you didn’t notice that the leads are older, almost all of the jokes pertain to their age. Sharon fumbles around with online dating, Carol tries slipping Bruce some viagra to spice things up in the bedroom, and Sharon must deal with her ex-husband dating someone young enough to be his daughter. There are glimpses of more interesting topics, like Sharon hesitantly revealing to her dates that she’s a federal (aka powerful, wealthy) judge and Diane dealing with her overbearing daughters, but those are pushed aside for either exaggeration (Diane’s daughters are downright MEAN) or cliches.
In many ways, Book Club is a weird mix of Sex and the City and your typical rom-com. It garners a few laughs and has a stellar cast. But with a cast that legendary, it’s tough to watch them grapple with such lackluster material. And that’s the script I’m talking about, not their book club choice of 50 Shades of Grey.