Film Review: “Book Club” Makes a Very Light Read

Film poster: “Book Club”

Book Club (Bill Holderman, 2018)  2 out of 4 stars.

A harmless-enough film featuring a cast of appealing sexa-, septua-  and octogenarians, Book Club might appeal to anyone looking for a reprieve from the endless cycle of Marvel films and other CGI-infested mayhem. Directed by first-time helmer Bill Holdeman (co-writer, A Walk in the Woods) from a script by Holderman and first-time writer Erin Simms, the film is equal parts geniality and pablum, with a dash of sex-laced humor thrown in for good measure. Your mileage will surely vary, but if watching a movie about upper-middle- and upper-class white folks living in a glorious bubble of privilege is not your thing, you should probably stay away.

Still, it is great fun to see Candice Bergen (Bride Wars), Jane Fonda (Our Souls at Night) – who is, remarkably, 81 years old, and does not look it – Diane Keaton (And So It Goes) and Mary Steenburgen (Katie Says Goodbye), playing friends who have been part of a monthly book club for ages. In this current cycle, they are tackling the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, which prompts them all to re-examine their staid or non-existent sex lives. It’s hardly the most topical of reads, in 2018, and not really worthy of these esteemed actress, but I’m sure author E L James is not complaining about the extended infomercial.

Hormones newly ablaze, our amicable quartet launches themselves into activities of raunch and romance. Andy Garcia (At Middleton), Don Johnson (Alex of Venice), Craig T. Nelson (Get Hard), and Richard Dreyfuss (Cas & Dylan) all make charming appearances, charisma oozing from every pore. Moments of occasional fraught drama are all eventually resolved to everyone’s great (and obvious) pleasure. Some funny jokes land, some don’t, and the ultimate effect is like spending time in well-worn, pleasant company. It could be better; it could be worse.

The seemingly ageless Jane Fonda in BOOK CLUB ©Paramount Pictures

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About chrisreedfilm

Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is lead film critic at hammertonail.com, an online magazine devoted to independent cinema; a regular film critic here at filmfestivaltoday.com; the host of Dragon Digital Media’s award-winning "Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed"; a film commentator for the "Roughly Speaking” podcast with Dan Rodricks at "The Baltimore Sun"; and the author of "Film Editing: Theory and Practice." In addition, he is one of three co-creators, along with Summre Garber of Slamdance and Bart Weiss of Dallas VideoFest, of "The Fog of Truth" (fogoftruth.com) – available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher – a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.
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