In spite of coming from very different, very busy walks of life, a group of four friends – hotel chain owner Vivian (Jane Fonda), Carol the cook (Mary Steenburgen), federal judge Sharon (Candice Bergen), and stay-at-home mom Diane (Diane Keaton) – have managed to maintain a close-knit relationship. The women meet once a month for book club and now the vivacious Vivian insists they read Fifty Shades of Grey. The book will revitalise their sex and love lives.
It’s hard to believe that an entire film can be based around mature women reading Fifty Shades of Grey but Book Club attempts to do just that. To pull it off, a leading cast who has proven their talents time and time again is relied on to infuse the film with vitality. Aside from shots of the leads gasping and blushing as they turn the pages of E.L. James’ works, you’ll watch Keaton, Fonda, Bergen and Steenburgen attempt to seduce, or be seduced, by talent that includes Don Johnson, Andy Garcia (who is particularly, irresistibly ravishing here), Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn. The other element, or sub-genre if you will, the film revolves around is good old chick flick territory, its female characters joking and teasing one another as they hang out and drink wine (of which the ladies drink enough to put the Sex and the City gals to shame).
Much like the Emily Blunt starrer The Jane Austen Book Club, Book Club does not capture the problematic nuances inherent in the books it centres on so anyone incited by the sadistic, abusive content of E.L. James' trilogy and subsequent film adaptations will likely be annoyed that the characters here view the books in the same way its millions of previous readers did – that it’s a book about hot monkey sex and the sacrifices you make for (yes, really) true love. The ladies giggle at sexual innuendos and metaphors, eventually inspiring a few laughs from the audience if only to give them something to do for the 103 minute running length.
Book Club is utterly conventional and lacks purpose or a point. The mature audiences it is geared towards will get a laugh out of it and then immediately forget about it. On the bright side, the cast, both female and male, are so naturally likeable and charming that audiences will at least be able to sit the film through, though its ending is eye roll inspiring, predictable and sickly in its sappy, outdated romanticism.