HOT AND BOTHERED
Steamy novel gets Book Club buddies fired up in new romp
The infamously un-sexy book series Fifty Shades of Grey is a convenient pop-culture reference point so Book Club’s four women characters — adorable, recently widowed Diane (Diane Keaton), sex-obsessed entrepreneur Vivian (Jane Fonda), divorced, married-to-her-job Sharon (Candice Bergen) and sexually frustrated housewife Carol (Mary Steenburgen) — can bond and talk about their sex lives.
Sharon’s 18-year abstinence is an easy punchline for her friends
(one describes Sharon’s vagina as “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” one of the better jokes in the film).
Bergen brings an earnest, comedic charisma to an otherwise underwritten role as she fumbles around online dating service Bumble — this includes a hilarious scene in which she accidentally posts a profile pic of her mortified, skin-mask-clad face. The most obvious Sex and the City stand-in character is Vivian, clearly based on Kim Cattrall’s Samantha.
Fonda’s leopard-print-wearing icy temptress is refreshing to see onscreen — if only because the number of positive depictions of post-menopausal female sexuality can be counted on one hand. However, the basis of her character is as stereotyped as Samantha’s: a woman turns down love (she said no to a wedding proposal 40 years ago, only to recently start casually dating the same guy, Arthur, played by Don Johnson) to focus on career ambitions.
Diane is possibly the most fleshed-out character of the club. She meets a handsome, self-assured and wealthy pilot, Mitchell (Andy Garcia), who is very good to her. Keaton’s nervous energy is well-buoyed by Garcia’s serene charm and their scenes are the most wonderful to dream-watch. But a lame subplot involving her overprotective daughters devolves into something silly. Steenburgen’s Carol gets the least characterization. Her dwindling dynamic with retired husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) is structured around a real relationship issue (his dwindling sex drive), that is, like every other conflict in the film, quickly and neatly resolved.
Book Club would have been better as a miniseries, where emotional intelligence and more witty banter could engage in the kind of narrative foreplay that makes for a genuinely satisfying, interesting and nuanced dramedy. There is an appetite for stories like Book Club and there’s no reason why we can’t have more comedies starring hot, confident, older women exploring the “next chapter” of their lives.
Candice Bergen, left, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda star in Book Club, which explores the lives of women of a certain age.