Book Club

 

            It's not often in Hollywood that the story line is all about the senior set.  You're not going to dazzle them with youth and beauty.  So you've got to rely on wit, “mature humor,” and a certain amount of self-deprecation.  It helps that the main characters are all established stars in their own right.

            Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen), and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) have been friends forty years.  (The photoshopped image of them all together 40 years ago is priceless.)  They have a Book Club, but of course the conversation isn't just literary, it's also a friendship/emotional support group, especially after all this time.  Diane's husband has died recently, and she has two grown daugthers who keep wanting her to move out to Arizona with them so they can “watch over her.”  Vivian is rich and owns a luxury hotel, and has had relationships with plenty of men, but never married, and never settled down, either, preferring to continue to play the field.  Sharon is a federal judge who got divorced 18 years ago but is still angry about it.  Carol is happily married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), but since his retirement, he's been a bit out of sync.

            The book which “the girls” have decided to study is “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  Yes, the racy one that celebrates sexuality that's a little on the rough side, a book which gets all the women talking about their own sexuality.  Don't worry, there's no nudity and no “real” sexual encounters here, but we do get to joke about dating and relationships, including an extended skit about Viagra. 

            Diane meets Mitchell (Andy Garcia), who actively courts her, but she's not sure she's ready, and her daughters are even more unsure about the idea.  Vivian meets an old flame, Arthur (Don Johnson), and wonders if the spark there can re-ignite.  (And yes, the irony isn't lost on us that it is Don Johnson's daugther, Dakota, who stars in the “Fifty Shades” series.)  Sharon tries online dating, which actually turns out better than she thought it would. (Where have you been all this time, Richard Dreyfuss?)  Carol can't seem to connect any more with her husband, whom she truly loves, which is a different kind of relational malady that the rest of them really can't help with.

            Yes, we have accidentally-falling-in-the-pool while fully clothed kind of slapstick humor, but it's not all silliness.  Sometimes the women get serious in their conversations (but not for long), and occasionally even indulge in some sniping, but they retract the claws quickly and we're back to senior citizen jokes.   Overall, it's lighthearted fun.  Nobody will mistake it for an Oscar contender, but the quality of the actors involved keeps the motor going.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association