Nico’s Movie Review: ‘Book Club’ Is Inoffensive, And That’s A Problem
Man, it feels weird to be disappointed by a movie like this, but I am anyway.
I assumed that Book Club would be crass, and offensive, and rely on getting its laughs through shock. I mean, the premise is a group of women in a book club who decide to read "Fifty Shades of Grey" because three out of the four of them aren't getting any. With a concept like that, I expected to see stuff like Candice Bergen trying on handcuffs and Jane Fonda buying a whip.
While, in some way I'm glad the movie didn't take the X-rated angle, in other ways I feel like it's a waste of the premise, and that they played it way too safe.
Book Club stars Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen as a group of older women in southern California, who have been lifelong friends. Part of what keeps them together is their monthly book club, which they've done since they were in their 20s. One meeting, Jane Fonda brings in "Fifty Shades of Grey" for everyone to read because she feels like her friends are turning into "old people".
Over the 1 hour 44 minute running time, all four of the women rediscover love or sexuality, in a way we've all seen before. Diane Keaton, a recent widow, pairs off with an """exotic""" man (Andy Garcia) she meets on a flight, Mary Steenburgen reinvigorates her marriage with her husband (Craig Nelson), Jane Fonda falls in love again with one of her first flames, and Candice Bergen stars in a series of commercials for online dating app Bumble.
...Okay, she doesn't literally do that, but as she explores the world of online dating, that's basically the end result.
I've spent almost 300 words so far basically criticizing Book Club, I know. So it might surprise you when I say that I didn't really hate this film. It just was kind of ...bland. Honestly, I enjoyed a few of the side plots more than I did the main romances.
For example, Diane Keaton is struggling with her two daughters, who exemplify the phrase "helicopter children". After her husband died, the daughters began constantly urging her to move in with them in Arizona, since they are very worried about her living alone, and potentially hurting herself or going senile.
Now, this was an interesting plot point. There haven't really been a lot of films that explore the loss of independence many aging adults go through, and the struggle it can be. It's a conflict that doesn't have an easy answer, either, because there are often cases where a person feels they can continue to live alone safely, but they really can't.
I also appreciated the kind of reversal of expectations that Jane Fonda's character embodies as well. Instead of being an older woman with a dead bedroom, she has the exact opposite; she has an endless parade of boy-toys at her beck and call to satisfy her physical needs, but she's unable to make an emotional connection with men because she's afraid of being hurt.
Things like this make me feel like Book Club would have been much more interesting if it focused more on the actual lives of these women, as opposed to just their love lives. Not a single scene in this movie (I kept track) passes the Bechdel Test, and that's a bit frustrating since all four of these women are incredible actors.
I understand that this is a romantic comedy, so I get that this is expected. But I can't help to be disappointed in that regard either.
Book Club isn't either movie that I wanted it to be; either a crass adult comedy about older women, or a character piece about the conflicts older women face regarding their sexuality and independence. It has a little bit of both, but not enough to leave me satisfied.
At the end of the day, though, the film is interesting enough, and the actresses witty and funny enough, to make it a good choice if you're a fan of rom-coms. And if you're like me and you don't like rom-coms, it's still a decent enough choice if you're suffering superhero fatigue.
See the trailer for Book Club below.