Debutant director Bill Holderman’s Book Club is a chick-flick, rom-com that will evoke two distinct reactions. While the female audience will find this film exhilarating, the male audience will find it silly and a drag. Nevertheless, Holderman and scriptwriter Erin Simms, redefine ‘sex in the sixties’ with the mildly ribald Book Club. It is staged to bring in some spark into the lives of four ageing friends who have shared a love of books since their reading circle picked up Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying 40-odd years ago.
These four supposedly sexagenarians are actually played by an octogenarian — Jane Fonda, two septuagenarians — Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen and only one woman in her sixties — Mary Steenburgen. Fonda as Vivian is a millionaire hotel owner whose endless string of one-night stands ensures that she is always on the guard against any emotional relationships. Keaton as Diane is recently widowed and has to contend with two over-protective daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton), who treat her as if she has already got one foot in the grave.
Bergen as Sharon is a divorced federal judge who has not had sex in 18 years. And Steenburgen as Carol has been married to Bruce (Craig T Nelson) but these days he concentrates more on his newly restored motor-cycle than on his wife.
The quartet meet regularly for their book club, and the narrative gives us an insight into how they reignite their long-dormant sex lives, while they are engrossed reading author E L James’, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Carol has the easiest task of coaxing her distracted husband, Bruce into the wonders of Viagra. The other three find love in more adventurous ways. Vivian finds romance in an old flame Arthur essayed by Don Johnson. Diane despite her aerophobia falls for a romantic and rich pilot, Mitchell, played by Andy Garcia. And, Sharon hooks up with accountant George played by Richard Dreyfuss, via a dating website Bumble.
All four pairs have excellent chemistry, but the spark in the narrative is missing as the gags are lame, humour smarmy and most of the relationships strictly boilerplate. Nevertheless, it’s a pleasure watching all the senior actors in action. They all look terrific and they collectively dazzle, but somehow their performances fall flat, simply because of the poor writing.
The production qualities of the film are fair. Andrew Dunna’s cinematography sparkles in spurts. While Vivian’s private enclave lacks the depth of a natural setting, the aerial view of Sedona, Arizona or when Dreyfuss’ stumbles out of the car after having a rollicking time with Bergen, are captured brilliantly.
While the background score by Peter Nashel meshes seamlessly with the narrative, it is Roxy Music’s seductive number, More than this, playing near the end, which reminds — that you indeed want more than what is offered. But like the aging quartet and their kinky pursuit, you gladly take whatever you can get when you get it.