MOVIE REVIEW: Book Club
Monday, 4 June 2018
by 👨💻 Graham Pierrepoint
Dir: Bill Holderman
Starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T Nelson, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Alicia Silverstone, Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley Jr
2 STARS (out of 5)
There are some movies you feel you’ve already seen before you actually do. You have your genres, your copycat movies, your recycled scripts – and then you have movies like Book Club, which, on paper, reads so familiarly and is marketed in such a déjà vu fashion it can be rather startling. Comedies starring older casts are nothing new – far, far from it – and while a fair few manage to hold their own and break through what seems to be a fairly bland mould, others… become the mould. Book Club is a movie which does exactly what it says it’s going to do, and for the most part, barely stretches its neck out. If, from the plot description and cast alone you are immediately invested, it’s highly likely you’ll be more than happy with the bare minimum. And, at least, there are some laughs here – unlike a host of other so-called comedic pieces that have fallen face-flat in recent years.
Keaton, Fonda, Bergen and Steenburgen are three middle-aged women who – having gone through individual relationship stresses (from messy divorces to passionless marriages to being widowed) – find themselves renewed having decided to read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ between them – leading to a series of wild and wonderful events for the quartet which not only leads them to start grabbing life – and love – by the horns, but also to start appreciating the little things, too. Yes, folks – it’s one of those movies – where non-wacky grannies go ahead and be wacky grannies for an hour and a half, and along the way, ‘find themselves’. If the plot and the concept appeals to you – you’re already 95% of the way there.
Book Club is dependent – make no mistake – on its absolutely stellar cast. These women have been big screen fixtures for decades – and, as such, the script in play almost entirely depends upon their charisma and chemistry as a group. That’s what makes Book Club work so well, when it does – is chemistry. There isn’t an incapable actor in the cast – even the legendary Richard Dreyfuss is technically second-tier here – and, as such, the movie just about scrapes along into palatable territory. With less capable direction, and with a lesser cast, you may as well forget about the whole thing – this idea has been done – and if you, like me, struggle to think exactly how, and where, that’s where the movie gets you – it feels like a new concept at first, but it really is not. Old people behaving like wild youngsters – that’s a trope that’s older than many of the actors in this movie.
However, it is still refreshing to some ends. A female-led comedy – unafraid to explore topics of sex and marriage under a close lens – with tons of risqué moments to boot – is something of a rarity on paper. It really is a mixed bag – it’s completely predictable and well-worn in some ways, but its presence at the box office is absolutely warranted in others. What’s not appealing in the slightest is the dated shoehorning of a certain EL James book. While they have fun with the Fifty Shades phenomenon here – it’ll raise a few chuckles for the right people – it’s far too late to say anything new. The Fifty Shades bubble burst well over 18 months ago, despite the third movie having been released earlier this year – and as a result, it feels rather like the cinematic equivalent of a brand using a three-year-old internet meme to plug their wares on Facebook. It’s a weird bandwagon which, while serviceable as the plot demands, is so, so dated.
Book Club - Official Trailer (Paramount Pictures)
In terms of comedy, the movie has people divided. Yes, the script gets soapy and melodramatic and makes jokes you kind of want to bear witness to through closed fingers – but at the same time, even the dodgiest clangers and moments are delivered with character, and panache. It’s that great cast, again – it really can do wonders for a poor movie. That being said, with all the greatest will in the world – will Book Club stand a chance of being hailed as one of the year’s most memorable comedies? Maybe not – while some critics may soapbox it as important – let’s look at it in a simpler fashion. It’s funny – in places – it’s well-directed, and well-cast – but it’s just all very wishy-washy. You know what you’re getting the minute you read the synopsis.
That being said, the audience this is aimed at will get a kick out of it – and I do think it’s great that an older female cast can warrant large audiences. I just – for the life of me – wish it was in aid of a better script, or a set of fresher ideas. If the thought of middle-aged women rediscovering their mojos tickles your funny bone, you’re in for one heck of an evening.
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