Director: Bill Holderman
Screenwriter: Bill Holderman and Erin Simms
Craig T. Nelson
Runtime: 104 mins.
Australian release date: 30 August 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 12 August 2018.
What on earth were Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen thinking when they signed up for Book Club? These are four veteran actors with talent to burn and, yes, roles for older females are regrettably hard to come by in Hollywood, but still. They must have been made an offer they couldn’t refuse and whatever it was, I hope it was worth it because they’ve set back the sisterhood considerably with their choice, turning the old feminist adage that ‘a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle’ on its head.
The four elderly gal-pals have been friends for many years, meeting regularly at one or other of their abodes to talk about their monthly book choice and imbibe in a lot of white wine. At one of these get-togethers, it’s decided that the next book they all read will be E. L. James’s erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Vivian (Jane Fonda) owns a swanky hotel and is happy to play the field when it comes to male companionship, Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a divorced federal judge consumed by her work, Diane (Diane Keaton) is recently widowed and hen-pecked by her two over-protective adult daughters, and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is unhappily married to her newly retired husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), but the book, plus the other two in the 50 Shades trilogy, rekindles fires in all of them that haven’t blazed for many years. And so, these mature, intelligent, professional women all start behaving like they’re adolescent teenagers again, intent on finding, or re-establishing, a sexual relationship with a male.
The script of Book Club, written by director Bill Holderman and Erin Simms, feels like it’s been compiled from the pages of a Californian self-help manual, a collection of sentiments on Hallmark greeting cards and one of those calendars that provide you with a thought for the day. As a result, it’s hard to accept the goings-on and believe that these bright women would talk this way; you can’t imagine, for example, Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the subject of the recent doco RBG, speaking or behaving the way Candice Bergen’s federal judge Sharon does. OK, Book Club is designed to be a light confection but this is so airy it’s in danger of floating off into the clouds, never to be seen again. There is, of course, some pleasure to be had in watching these famous thespians hamming it up, not only the four leads but also Garcia, Simpson, Nelson and Dreyfuss, but it’s not enough to make up for the film’s many other flaws. However, these faults won’t make a blind bit of difference to the film’s target audience. The preview audience of ‘women of a certain age’ seemed to love every minute of it.