Four leg­ends, one film

Fonda, Ber­gen, Keaton, Steen­bur­gen in “Book Club.” Movie re­views:

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Katie Walsh Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Fonda. Ber­gen. Keaton. Steen­bur­gen. “Book Club.” Sure, “Avengers: Infinity War” came out a few weeks ago, but now this is the great­est cross­over event in his­tory. Four of the most iconic ac­tresses of the 20th cen­tury come to­gether for a film in which their book club reads “50 Shades of Grey”? Where can I line up?

This movie is ei­ther in your wheel­house or it’s not, but for those look­ing for­ward to “Book Club,” it de­liv­ers. For what it is — a breezy bit of Nancy Mey­ers-like fan­tasy, fea­tur­ing four beloved ac­tresses talk­ing about sex, baby — it’s ex­ceed­ingly en­joy­able. But beyond its shiny sur­face and real es­tate pornog­ra­phy, the picture, di­rected by Bill Hol­d­er­man and co-writ­ten by Hol­d­er­man and Erin Simms, is a way to talk about the de­hu­man­iz­ing ways older peo­ple are de­sex­u­al­ized in our cul­ture and a ral­ly­ing cry against that trend.

That the quar­tet get there through E.L. James’ tor­tured pop-erot­ica prose is pretty silly, but at least the char­ac­ters have some perspective on the ques­tion­able qual­ity of the “50 Shades” tril­ogy and we don’t have to delve too deeply into the world of Anas­ta­sia Steele and Chris­tian Grey’s red room. The books sim­ply serve as stim­uli for the women to explore their own sex­u­al­ity, in a world that of­ten wants to deny them that.

Each ac­tress is given a role that hews closely to her own per­sona, so the per­for­mances aren’t nec­es­sar­ily any­thing we haven’t seen be­fore. Fonda plays a wealthy, age-de­fy­ing hote­lier, Vi­vian, fond of her in­de­pen­dence and thigh­high boots, cur­rently en­ter­tain­ing Arthur (Don John­son), a younger lover from an­other era. Diane Keaton plays the hi­lar­i­ously high­strung Diane, a re­cent widow and the mother of two wildly con­de­scend­ing adult daugh­ters (Ali­cia Sil­ver­stone and Katie Asel­ton) pres­sur­ing her to move to Ari­zona to play grandma. Steen­bur­gen is Carol, a chef and de­voted wife to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), try­ing to put some spark back into their 30-year mar­riage.

But it’s Candice Ber­gen who steals the show, play­ing Sharon, a long­di­vorced, no-non­sense fed­eral judge, ex­plor­ing on­line dat­ing for the first time af­ter learn­ing of her ex-hus­band’s young new fi­ancee. Ev­ery­thing Sharon does is won­der­fully re­lat­able, from her one-lin­ers about pro­fes­sional ice cream eat­ing to her Bum­ble pro­file pic, an ac­ci­den­tal selfie com­plete with green face mask and up­side­down glasses. Her dry wit is an es­sen­tial ground­ing el­e­ment in a film that could oth­er­wise be far too flighty to take se­ri­ously.

The ul­ti­mate mes­sage of “Book Club,” beyond as­sert­ing the vi­tal­ity, sexual appetite and hu­man­ity of older peo­ple, is that ev­ery­one, of any age, who feels stag­nant or stuck in their ways has the op­por­tu­nity, nay, the re­spon­si­bil­ity to shake it up and put them­selves out there — a heav­ily san­i­tized riff on “50 Shades.” “Book Club” just might be the best adap­ta­tion of that book se­ries yet.

MELINDA SUE GOR­DON/PARA­MOUNT PICTURES

“Book Club,” di­rected by Bill Hol­d­er­man, stars a fa­mous quar­tet: Diane Keaton, from left, Candice Ber­gen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steen­bur­gen.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.