Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Bill Holderman
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Diane (Diane Keaton) is recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. Vivian (Jane Fonda) enjoys her men with no strings attached. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is still working through a decades-old divorce. Carol’s (Mary Steenburgen) marriage is in a slump after 35 years. Four lifelong friends’ lives are turned upside down to hilarious ends when their book club tackles the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. From discovering new romance to rekindling old flames, they inspire each other to make their next chapter the best chapter.
It is very rare that a trope of actresses this talented gets together for a project like this. If this film had come out 30-40 years ago, regardless of the content it would probably end up with some serious award season buzz. So, how does this group of actresses do in 2018? While the four lead actresses are great in their roles, the material is just so bland and uninspiring that the actresses can only elevate it so high.
The film follows Diane (Keaton), Vivian (Fonda), Sharon (Bergen), and Carol (Steenburgen), four lifelong friends that meet once a month for a book club. Looking to spice up their love life, Vivian suggests that they read Fifty Shades of Grey to get that spark back. After reading the book, the four women go through a sexual reawakening and look to implement the ideas from the book into their lives. With all of the women having their own personal barriers, what will happen with their personal relationships? Starting with the positives, the chemistry between the four leads is incredible. The relationships that they have are easily established in the beginning of the film based on the way they can insult one another and everyone just laughs it off. It feels as though all of these characters have been friends for life and that it probably is because these actresses are all very familiar with one another from their experiences together. Their talent alone turns jokes that probably would not have been very funny and makes them serviceable, so credit is absolutely due to the four leading ladies. Outside of their performances, the film really takes a dive in the second half. One of the main issues I believe the film has is that there is a lack of development in the romantic relationships that the characters engage in. Since there are four lead characters, equal time is required for us to understand what each of these women is going through and how they can achieve their goals. The relationship issues that these women face seem very one-dimensional and given that there are four stories going on at once, we get to see glimpses of these problems before we move on to the next one. Out of the four stories, the only one that I kind of thought was solid was Diane’s because it seemed to have a wider range of reach whereas the other three are either shallow or ultra-specific. The difference between a film like this and a film like Avengers: Infinity War, other than the runtime, is that Avengers: Infinity War had one less main storyline than Book Club and 18 other movies to build those characters up. We had neither of those things in Book Club and as a result, the story suffers. The other main issue I had is that towards the end of the film, there is a scene where the women talk about how Fifty Shades of Grey is a love story and not a story about sexual liberation and lust. Now, I can tolerate bad acting, bad writing, or bad directing, but the one thing I hate about a movie is when they either lie to me or treat me like I am dumb. Anyone with half of a functioning brain cell can figure out what these books and movies are about, so to interpret it as something other than the basic, bland, boring series that it is insults the viewer and made my eyes roll to the back of my head. If that scene was left out, I think the film would have naturally progressed, but instead we got a film that panders to its intended audience instead of trying to make an enjoyable film for all.
Overall, I understand that I am not the target demographic that this film was made for, and maybe that impacted my ability to enjoy the film. I believe that individuals within the demographic will probably enjoy the film as they can probably relate to it more and it is generally inoffensive, but anyone else will find the film to be relatively average. Had it not been for the performances of the talented leading actresses, there is a solid chance that this film ends up in the bottom of the barrel for 2018, but instead we got a film that while not terrible, is certainly far from perfect.
Overall Score: 4.5/10