Gwen Reyes // Critic
In Bill Holderman’s charming romantic comedy BOOK CLUB he and co-writer Erin Simms explore how finding just the right book can irrevocably change a group of four friends for the best. And, of course, that book is the same novel that opened the floodgates (pun unintended, but I like it, so it’s staying) for millions of women across the world – FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Unlike the sexy, yet messy, adaptations of the E.L. James trilogy, BOOK CLUB digs into the world of four women who read and apply Ana and Christian’s passions to their own lives. It’s a sweet film that is a total blast from start to finish.
The four women at the center of the film are life-long best friends and meet at least once a month in their lavish homes to share thoughts and opinions on different books. Jane Fonda plays Vivian, a wealthy hotelier who has pushed aside love and settling down in exchange for a successful career and an even more successful sex life. She does not play the game of love; therefore she will never lose her heart to anyone. Diane Keaton is Diane (ha!), a sweet but flighty bestie whose husband passed a year before the start of the film. Her children worry about her insistently and spend the majority of their time trying to convince Diane to move to Arizona so they can keep an eye on her. Mary Steenburgen’s Carol is married to Craig T. Nelson’s Bruce, and between running a hot restaurant and suffering from empty nest syndrome, Carol craves more intimacy with Bruce. But he’d rather spend time complimenting an aged motorcycle in his garage than his wife. BOOK CLUB MVP Candice Bergen rounds out the group as Sharon. She is a feisty, tells-it-like-it-is judge. After she and her husband divorced nearly two decades ago, she decided to get a cat and focus on moving her career forward. Sharon is the best, and I would like to see a sequel of just her on Tinder dates.
The men in BOOK CLUB (Nelson, Andy Garcia, and Don Johnson) are essential but only so far as they provide the newly sexually awakened women (minus Fonda’s Vivian who was already pretty sexually woke) the opportunity to explore their desires. Each couple pairs well. Watching Diane fall in love with Garcia’s Mitchell is exhilarating, especially as she learns to look inside herself for strength and a backbone. Charming as hell is actually how I would put it. Bergen goes on her journey as she learns to let go of control and let her hair down a little, while Carol learns to listen to her husband – something many wives and husbands need a little reminding of after 30-plus years marriage. Vivian’s path crosses with Arthur (Johnson), a man from her past who never left her heart.
In a time when movies are supposed to be about something or nothing, it’s lovely to see a film like BOOK CLUB that is so genuinely delightful and full of heart. This mature and thoughtful comedy would make Nora Ephron smile.