LUSTY MOM ROM-COM

Pretoria News Weekend - - FILM - ANN HOR­NA­DAY

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.

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