Four female friends think they can spice up their book club, and maybe their love lives, by wallowing in the kinky prose of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s the premise of this life-after-60 comedy, and there’s not a doubt in the world that it’s a pleasure to bask in the company of the four lead actresses – Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. Until, that is, you see what debuting director Bill Holderman and his cowriter Erin Simms have concocted for this quartet of greats. Some may feel like this smirking sex farce goes down easy. Others may choke on it – or worse, feel like they’ve wandered into the cinematic equivalent of Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain?
Book Club is set in Los Angeles where everyone’s living la vida luxe in the sort of décor porn that Nancy Meyers might envy. Vivian (Fonda) runs a hotel and has a stable of studs to choose from. Sharon (Bergen) is a federal judge who’s done with the husband (Ed Begley, Jr.) who dumped her for a young trophy fiancé (Mircea Monroe). Diane (Keaton) is a widow who kind of likes being on her own. And Carol (Steenburgen) is a restaurateur with a newly retired husband, Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), who’s having trouble both getting and keeping it up.
So does this movie, which keeps putting AARP gags into the mouths of actresses who deserve so much better. Their characters don’t need matchmakers – they seem to be thriving just as they are, thank you very much. Instead, we’re told that freewheeling Vivian has to settle down with just one man, her former beau (Don Johnson, a.k.a. father of Dakota Johnson, the lead in the film of Fifty Shades). Diane has to find happiness with a mega-rich aviator (Andy Garcia). Sharon has to go online to find a date (Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn play two of the candidates). And Carol has to slip Viagra into the drink of her husband to cure his post-retirement impotence.
message of this insulting string of tired jokes disguised as a movie is that these
four smart, funny, rigorously independent women, played by top actresses who fit the same description, can’t find true happiness without a man.
Seriously? In 2018? In a time of #MeToo
and #TimesUp? No one’s knocking finding
a soulmate at any age. But Book Club is
selling Cinderella fantasies that went out last century. We’re not buying it.
And neither these women nor you should either.