Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Bill Holderman

Stars: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergin, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T Nelson, Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss, Wallace Shawn, Ed Begley jr, Alicia Silverstone.

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Four lifelong female friends have formed their own book club as an excuse to get together regularly, taste some wine, swap stories and enjoy some good literature.

Diane (Diane Keaton, from The Godfather trilogy and Oscar winner for Annie Hall) is recently widowed, and her daughters want her to move to Arizona to be closer to them as they fear that she will not be able to cope on her own. Vivian (dual Oscar winner Jane Fonda, from Coming Home, etc) is a successful businesswoman who owns her own luxury hotel in LA and enjoys the pleasures of the single life. Sharon (Candice Bergin, from Murphy Brown, etc) is a federal court judge who is still bitter over her decades old divorce. Meanwhile Carol (Mary Steenburgen, Oscar winner for Melvin And Howard, etc) feels that her marriage of 35 years to Bruce (Craig T Nelson, from The Incredibles, etc) has grown dull and hit a slump. Then Vivian introduces her friends to the erotic world of E L James when she insists that they read Fifty Shades Of Grey as their next book to discuss. Not everyone is happy with the choice.

The book spices up their lives and inspires the quartet in different ways to assess their lives and effect some changes. Diane meets handsome pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia, recently seen in the musical Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, etc) and begins to enjoy life again. When she discovers that her ex-husband Tom (Ed Begley jr) is dating a much younger woman Sharon reluctantly enters the world of on-line dating and meets dull tax accountant George (Richard Dreyfuss, from Jaws, etc) and psychiatrist Dr Derek (Wallace Shawn, from The Princess Bride, etc). And Vivian meets the dashing and suave Arthur (Don Johnson, from tv series Miami Vice, etc), a musician whom she dumped years earlier when he proposed, but discovers that there is still a palpable connection between them. And Carol tries many different things to try and attract Bruce’s attention and spice up their sex lives.

Book Club has been written by Bill Holderman (the genial A Walk In The Woods) and Erin Simms (this is the first script for the actress best known for her work in the tv series Student Bodies). Holderman makes his directorial debut with this film, and he keeps things light and moving along, giving the material the feel of a formulaic Nancy Meyers romcom. There are some funny lone-liners throughout delivered with flair by the stars. This is predictable fare and employs the usual tropes of the romcom genre.  Book Club is sweet natured and enjoyable enough without bringing anything particularly fresh to the romcom genre, although it is clearly aimed at certain demographic who will appreciate it and its lively and well-developed characters of a certain age.

The stellar ensemble cast are all wonderful and inhabit their characters and inject life into the material. They also draw upon their own screen history to help shape their characters here. And it is great to see this quartet of veteran actresses given such strong material to work with and play women of a certain age who enjoy sex. Fonda still looks fabulous even after forty years in the business and she brings such class and grace to her role. Keaton plays yet another variation of her usual ditzy, kooky character, but the role suits her like a glove and she brings her usual energy to her performance. Bergin has great comic timing and has a lot of fun with her role, and almost steals the show. She and Dreyfuss share a great chemistry in their brief scenes together.

Of the male characters, Nelson has the biggest role as the gormless Bruce and he makes the most of it, while Garcia brings plenty of charm and warmth to his role. The initial meeting between Keaton and Garcia brings plenty of awkward comedy to the fore.


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