As a fan of Grace and Frankie, Mamma Mia!, and plenty of other film and media intended for an older female demographic, I was excited to watch Book Club, which follows four mature women and their romantic escapades after each reading erotic bestseller 50 Shades of Grey. As amusing as the premise sounded, the main draw is clearly the cast, with Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen starring as members of the titular club. On their own this would be enough, but with a supporting cast including Andy Garcia and Craig T. Nelson, I was firmly on board. The results certainly weren't negative, but I was left feeling that director Bill Holderman could have gone much, much further.
Beginning with a narrated look at each of the lead characters lives, featuring some dodgily photoshopped 'old' pictures, the audience is told the relationship status and general archetype each woman fits. We go from single, to divorced, to happily married, to widowed, covering each possible demographic that could be watching the movie, as well as allowing the viewer to fairly accurately predict what direction the film will go in with each character, leaving few surprises. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - I definitely wasn't watching this movie to have my mind blown by shocking twists - but don't expect too much subversion of your expectations based on the somewhat subversive positive acknowledgement of mature female sexuality.
If anything, all the most scandalous lines and scenarios are spoiled in the trailer, and I found myself wishing that Book Club had gone for a 15 rating considering its primary demographic, as it could have had greater freedom with its main gimmick. Despite the kinky content of Fifty Shades, it only seems to lead the women towards making vanilla decisions like going on a first date or attempting to seduce their own husband; this isn't exactly going to pop out any monocles. It changes the message from 'older women should embrace their sexuality' to 'older women should politely admit that they have any kind of sexuality', which to me felt a little lame.
That said, Book Club is not by any means a failure. Jane Fonda, currently doing fantastic work in the Netflix Original Grace and Frankie, has most of the best lines as a happily single, career-focussed woman with no regrets regarding her refusal to settle down. Diane Keaton is charming as always as our main protagonist, who deals with two overbearing daughters and the fairly recent loss of a husband she was never truly in love with. Candice Bergen is the sternest of the bunch as a divorcee who resents her ex-husband and his new much younger girlfriend, and Mary Steenburgen has some sweetly funny moments as a wife trying to reinvigorate her increasingly dry marriage. And of course, Andy Garcia makes a fantastic male lead as Keaton's smooth-talking pilot love interest.
Though Holderman didn't create the most interesting looking movie in the world, Book Club is visually appealing enough and looks fine on DVD. For fans of the film, or honestly just of the actresses, the DVD has a good amount to offer in the way of extras as well, featuring numerous interviews with the cast along standbys like extended and deleted scenes. Whilst I wouldn't say this is a must-buy for anybody, fans of the film will find a lot to enjoy with this DVD.