LUSTY MOM ROM-COM
IN Book Club, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen play four best friends who have not only been in the same reading circle for 40 years, but have achieved almost identical consumerist heights.
Drinking white wine and arranging (but never actually consuming) bespoke appetisers against the backdrops of their immaculate Los Angeles kitchens, these characters’ lives might differ in the details, but not their prosperous, physically fit, almost freakishly wellpreserved gestalt.
Fonda plays Vivian, a wealthy hotel owner who prefers casual sex to commitment; Keaton plays Diane, whose husband died a year ago and whose kids are nagging her to move to Arizona, presumably to dry up; Bergen’s Sharon is a divorced federal judge who gave up romance years ago; and Steenburgen plays Carol, a cheerful homemaker who longs to spice up things with her longtime husband, Bruce (Craig T Nelson).
As Book Club opens, the group has just finished Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. (The underwhelmed verdict: “She hiked. She lost her boot. She did heroin.”) Then someone suggests they tackle Fifty Shades of Grey.
Soon, the women are devouring EL James’s violet prose and polite violence with alarm and avidity, each experiencing an erotic awakening no less revelatory for being achieved without actual handcuffs and a whip.
Book Club, directed by Bill Holderman from a script he wrote with Erin Simms, has been called Sex and the City of a Certain Age, although this city is notional in its realism (welcome to an LA where no people of colour live, work or even qualify as background players), and the libidinous activity is strictly PG-13: At one point, an errant f-word is camouflaged with a discreet cough.
The script is a-bubble with witty, on-point observations about ageing bodies and flagging sex drives (at one point, Carol compares a part of her anatomy to Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams), which enliven otherwise generic setups and sluggish, off-kilter pacing.
Stodginess is kept reasonably at bay with the help of choice cuts from Tom Petty, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan.
The all-star ensemble, dominated by actresses who were at their height in the 1970s, works well as an easygoing team, their mutual warmth enhanced by the kind of diffuse, softedged light made famous by the director Nancy Meyers.
It has brio, rueful humour and a celebratory verve that is nearly impossible to resist. – Washington Post
AGEING WITH VERVE: Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton in Book Club.