Lifelong friends Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) hold a monthly book club and for the latest choice promises to spice their lives up. Vivian talks the group into reading the first of the Fifty Shades of Grey books and despite their initial reluctance, they all find themselves hooked. Reading the books sex-led content also makes the four women look at their own love lives and realise that they need to make some serious changes.
On paper Book Club sounds like it could be a cringefest but surprisingly it’s an engaging, laugh-out-loud film with plenty of heart. In the hands of first-time director Bill Holderman, who co-wrote the screenplay with Erin Simms, Book Club is an exploration of rediscovering love and sex when the world wants to tell you you’re past it. Each of the four central women have their own issues to overcome; Diane is grieving her husband and trying to resist her pushy daughters’ desire for her to move in with them, Vivian is confident but a complete commitment-phobe, Sharon discards any notion of romance after her husband leaves her for a younger woman, and Carol is frustrated by her husband’s seeming lack of interest in her sexually.
The four characters are written strongly and each gets plenty of development. You come to care about each of these women and the actresses have such a fantastic chemistry that you easily buy into their friendship. The film explores each woman’s journey in detail with plenty of scenes featuring the foursome together supporting, teasing and helping one another. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen are absolutely fantastic and part of the joy of the film is just watching these iconic actresses having a ball. They are all very good comedy actresses but they can carry the dramatic weight of the material too.
They are almost matched by their male co-stars Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss and Craig T. Nelson. As the film isn’t really about the men, they get a little less to do but Andy Garcia makes us forget about his appalling performance in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again as Diane’s love interest Mitchell and Craig T. Nelson gives a very emotional performance as Carol’s husband. The supporting cast is strong too with solid turns from Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton as Diane’s daughters.
The disc includes over an hour of special features taking you behind the film. Featurette It All Started With a Book gives a good insight into the struggle that writers Bill Holderman and Erin Simms had bringing the film to the big screen while Casting Book Club looks at the star-studded cast. The disc also contains three more featurettes – Location, Location, Location, A New Chapter and Living in the Moment – along with 13 deleted or alternate scenes.
Book Club really is the true definition of a feel-good film. It had me laughing a lot and I felt a whole range of feelings. Dare I say I had a tear in my eye at points too. The film’s subject matter is handled in a sensitive and engaging way, and thanks to the stellar cast and the direction of Holderman it’s a complete triumph. Fans of the four leads will lap the film up but I’d wager that the film can find a much wider audience, and one that will have it on their repeat list for years to come.
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss, Wallace Shawn, Craig T. Nelson, Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton Director: Bill Holderman Writers: Bill Holderman, Erin Simms Certificate: 12 Duration: 104 mins Released by: Paramount Home Media Distribution Release date: 24th September (Digital), 8th October (Blu-ray & DVD)