By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Now I know I am certainly not the target demographic of this film, nor is said film my cup of coffee, but I do hope to offer some insight as a male audience member and cinephile.  For Book Club, I will say this; the filmmakers have assembled a phenomenal cast of women whose careers in acting have some rather impressive contributions to cinema.  Of course, I wouldn’t say that Book Club is one of them.  Still, as I sat in the theater and watched an utterly predictable movie and actually laughed at some of the humor, I noticed that the mostly female audience members were having a great time.  Book Club should make for a fun ladies night out away from their troubles, but I would probably recommend that most men sit this one out.

Ever since college, Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen), and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) have been close friends.  And even though they all have their own lives and successful careers now, they still are close, communicate regularly, and meet often for their book club.  The club allows them to let their hair down, enjoy some wine, talk about their problems, and discuss a book they have all been reading.  After getting bored with the previous book, the always randy Vivian decides to spice things up by selecting Fifty Shades of Grey as the group’s next book.  As the ladies get through the racy, soft core erotic novel, latent passions get re-awakened within each of them inspiring them to either pursue new relationships, or spice up their current ones.

Written and directed by Bill Holderman, who co-wrote the script with Erin Simms, Book Club does have its fun, racy moments, and does have a good heart, but is very transparent.  Though the character development of the protagonists is decent, I pretty much knew how their journeys would end up from the get go.  The humor works fairly well, but gets redundant after a while.  Though I laughed in the beginning, I began to find myself annoyed with the overabundance of metaphors and double entendres.  At one point in the film a character shouts out, “Enough with the metaphors!”  I am pretty sure that upon hearing that exclamation, I whispered to myself, “Thank you.”

And as I stated above, the cast is impressive and they all perform well, despite the limitations of the script.  Diane Keaton is perfectly cast as the sweet and timid member of the group who is currently a widowed single lady who hasn’t had a romantic relationship since her husband’s passing.  She finds romance with a dashing and charismatic man named Mitchell (an also perfectly cast Andy Garcia).  Jane Fonda portrays Vivian, the strong, driven and wealthy businesswoman who has had mostly empty physical relationships with men.  Vivian rekindles a romance with former lover Arthur (Don Johnson) the only man to capture her heart.

Divorcee Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a federal judge who hasn’t really made time for dating or romance.  After reading the erotic novel, the tough and brassy lady decides to try the dating app Bumble to reinvigorate her social life  Bergen brings her signature brand of no-nonsense toughness to the role, but with just the right touch of hearty sweetness.  Last, but definitely not least, the lovely and sweet Mary Steenburgen portrays successful chef and restaurateur Carol, the only married member of the group, but one whose marital passions have fizzled out in recent years.  The film also features performances and appearances by Alicia Silverstone, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfus, Katie Aselton, Wallace Shawn, Ed Begley, Jr. and Mircea Monroe.

As a film critic, I really cannot recommend paying to see this mostly lackluster, but occasionally entertaining movie at the cinema.  However, as someone who observed several women enjoying this film at the screening, I would say that there are definitely ladies who will enjoy this movie.  As sweet benign entertainment goes, one could do much better, but also a lot worse.  It is certainly better than sitting through another Fifty Shades movie, though.



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