For decades four female friends have been getting together for a monthly book club. However, while this started when they were in their youth, they now all facing the fact they’re aging. Diane (Diane Keaton) is a relatively recent widow being pressured by her daughters to move to nearer to them in Arizona, as they think she’s too old to manage by herself. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is stuck in a rut with her husband, while federal judge Sharon (Candice Bergen) has completely given up on the idea of either love or sex. Finally there’s Vivian (Jane Fonda), a woman who’s never had a problem finding sex but has always disdained the idea of settling down with one person.
Rather than their typical book club novels, the quartet decide to read Fifty Shades Of Grey. After discovering the Red Room shenanigans that Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele get up to, the four women start to shake up their own lives. That may not involve BDSM, but it does set them thinking about what they really want from their remaining years.
In the Special Features for the Book Club Blu-ray, it’s mentioned more than once how rare it is for a major film, especially a comedy, to focus on the lives and desires of older women. Indeed, at one point even with this film there was pressure on the makers to cast younger actresses in the main roles. It helps explain Book Club was able to pull together such an excellent cast – which, alongside the main women, includes the likes of Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley Jr., Wallace Shawn, Alicia Silverstone, Andy Garcia and Don Johnson. It also helps explain why so many legendary and distinguished actors would come together for something that’s so, ‘meh’.
You could almost argue that the makers should have set their sights lower. With a cast of such firecracker talents, it undoubtedly raises your expectations. It comes as something of a disappointment then that while the actresses are indeed great, they’re given such a pedestrian, undemanding script. Each of their stories is completely predictable to an almost insulting degree, where you could watch the first 15 minutes and you’ll know every story beat until the end. Even the Fifty Shades Of Grey angle turns out to be almost pointless, as there could have been 101 different things used as the catalyst for the rather obvious changes the women make in their lives. Indeed, at times it’s difficult to see what the book has to do with anything, other than be a marketing hook for the film.
Perhaps if the movie hadn’t been cast with a quartet of living legends it would have been easier to shrug and just go along with it. However, with three Oscar-winners and a quintuple Emmy winner, it’s tough not to feel they deserve more and we’re being short-changed on what could have been.
There are some good things about it though, which is largely down to the cast and the fact it all looks very pretty. The scenes with all four women together are great, where it doesn’t really matter too much what they’re saying as it’s just fun to watch them bounce off one another. It’s only when they split apart that you realise they’re being tied into rather hackneyed stories.
The Special Features are pretty good, as it’s interesting to see how the film and the cast came together. That includes the problems it faced when The Weinstein Company snapped up the rights to the script and wanted to make some fundamental changes, before sitting on it and doing nothing for months.
Overall Verdict: An amazing cast doing their absolute best can’t hide the fact that the it’s essentially a bunch of rather banal and underwritten character journeys that have little to do with the Fifty Shades of Grey MacGuffin.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac