A lot of joking has been made about the premise of this film. it has been met by either one of two reactions, sniggering or “oh, god”. I felt that I would probably not enjoy Book Club because I’m the exact opposite of its intended audience, but I also saw this film with a bit of optimism. I remembered my viewing of Going in Style, a film that I surprisingly enjoyed and is similar in tone to this film. This thankfully came true as I found myself enjoying Book Club more than I thought I would, the film even made me forget about any biased opinions I had on Fifty Shades of Grey, now that’s saying something.
The cornerstone of this film is the legendary cast. Just listing the talent in Book Club is enough to entice you with the likes of Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergan and Mary Steenburgen taking center stage as four lifelong friends who’s decided their love lives needs spicing up after reading Fifty Shades of Grey. All four of these women have incredible chemistry together which makes us believe that their characters have known each other for a long time and is unsurprisingly the most entertaining part of the film. There’s a lot of back and forth banter thrown at each other’s way and they brush it off like they don’t care. There’s something oddly pleasing about old people breaking taboos of how they are seen in society, how often would you hear pensioners talk about getting laid and BDSM like they were still young adults? This film turns something that we would find disgusting to think about and makes it work and the main reason for it working is the friendship.
It’s not only the characters that are inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey, the entire narrative structure seems to be heavily influenced as well. Book Club is essentially a three-act structure with each act mirroring the feel of each novel in the Fifty Shades trilogy. The film starts off with the characters seeking sex for the enjoyment of it. There are examples of the character Carol (Mary Steenburgen) hinting her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) to do things she has read in the book, Diane,and Vivian (Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda) have romantic flings where they feel much more mischievous and giddy and Sharon (Candice Bergen) explored the world of online dating.
All the characters do these things in the name of thrill-seeking but it becomes apparent to the audience that the film is becoming less of a cheeky chick-flick and more of a love story, much in the same way Fifty Shades novels becomes more of a romance. The amount of admiration I had for the screenwriters after realizing this was beyond amazing. For a film to put so much care into its core reflect on how much passion the screenwriters had for this project. Their passion shows off in more than just structure, Book Club is a very funny film, primarily because of the back and forth banter between the four women, but there are also creative pieces of innuendo humor. It may not be groundbreaking humor, but the character makes it funnier than it should be.
The film sustains itself on the hilarious performances of these four legendary actresses, but sustenance only comes in small quantities for Book Club, take that away and the film practically starves itself of intrigue. Having a legendary cast list, the writers would clearly priorities the poster girls, it’s the men of the film however that are hollow. I could help but think that the characters of the pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia) and Arthur (Don Johnson were practically the same person. They’re both slick, smooth talkers who are so overly confident that they’re going to get the girl there’s no individuality besides their obvious differences.
The women lead such luxurious lifestyles was it really a requirement for them to be successful. I’m certain that the same character connection could have been achieved if the women success’ in life were different if anything the connection to the audience could have been stronger, it leads to this film become more of a Sex and the City for the over 65’s.
Although I have talked barrels full about the influence of Fifty Shades, the actual, physical book is rarely featured in the film at all. If you are a fan of Fifty Shades and are hoping for a lot of references to lines in the book expect to be somewhat disappointed, the biggest thrill you can get as a fan is that author E.L.James makes a cameo appearance.
I thought this would be an in and out film review, but I was surprised by how much I could talk about this film. the leading characters are brilliant when they’re together, it’s not too mushy for the classic romantic comedy tone and the comedic dialogue and visuals are much funnier than they are. For the film’s chosen demographic, this is a chance to cozy up with a glass of white wine with the girls and relax in Book Club’s escapism.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Book Club? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom