‘Book Club’ review: Lonely lives of rich old white women

Several comedies over the years have told us that female friendships last a lifetime. The films seem to insist that the reason for the enduring and adamantine bond, is the safe space these friendships create to complain about men or scheme ways to seduce them. Book Club is nothing more than an addition to those comedies, which despite its modern setup, appear anachronistic.

Four friends played by veteran actors Diane Keaton (Diane), Jane Fonda (Vivian), Candice Bergen (Sharon), and Mary Steenburgen (Carol), form a book club in college and keep it alive for decades till they are in their 60s. The delightful banter between them is always accompanied by bottles of wine and vodka, but without its concomitant bad decision or hangovers. The four accomplished bibliophiles introduce the Fifty Shades trilogy in one of their meetings in the hope that the novels would inspire them to spice up their lives. But what follows is a series of situations and tropes, which are completely bereft of originality, and resemble a sitcom in its aesthetics.

Book Club
  • Director: Bill Holderman
  • Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Andy García, Don Johnson
  • Story line: Four friends introduce the Fifty Shades trilogy in their book club to spice up their lives

It would be unfair to expect groundbreaking novelty — both in narrative and form — from a light-hearted romantic comedy, but seeing a group of seasoned actors struggling to evoke sentiments in overtly mushy situations is certainly disappointing. Whether it’s Keaton’s romance with a suave pilot (Andy Garcia) or Steenburgen’s attempt to lure her husband (Craig T. Nelson) into sex, the four supposedly romantic narratives lack chemistry and passion, owing to sloppily written scenes.

Book Club is at its best when the leading ladies congregate. They deliver one-liners like, “We’re not spring flowers any more, but potpourri,” and “Do you even remember your last date? We’re talking about the Nixon era here.” The self-deprecating banter is witty and convincingly intoxicated. There’s also plenty of double entendre (of course, references to Moby Dick) but nothing too risqué. That’s largely because Keaton, Bergen and Steenburgen play rule-following women, while Fonda is the only deviant who is unable to commit to a man. Yet, Fonda is unable to stand out, despite her garish make-up and a bedraggled wig. Her character comes across as desultory, who fails to execute the sole purpose of her existence in the film: adding spice to the story. Despite a tried-and-tested premise, Bill Holderman’s directorial debut falls flat. There’s a nagging déjà vu telling us that we’ve seen better tales of female camaraderie before, because we most definitely have.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 12:08:54 PM |

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