“Book Club” – boilerplate made beautiful by a great cast

Nutshell: Enjoyable lightweight romantic comedy for Boomers and anyone else interested in seeing characters face romantic challenges rather than simply hopping into the sack. Keaton, Fonda, Bergen and Steenburgen need to be in more movies together; they make a great team. Grade: B

“I’m not even sure this qualifies as a ‘book’.”

Story: Four lifelong Boomer friends have had a monthly book club for decades. But when one of them decides to pick “Fifty Shades of Grey”, things get…real.  For everybody.

Genre I’d put it in: Of An Age Comedies

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Though Grey is used here, the story in this film is wholly original.

Gotta say: I love this cast.  Love, love, love. But the premise was a bit iffy for me. I’m not a fan of the Fifty Shades series, with the books being horribly written and the themes seeming to be “accept anything from a guy if he’s rich and into you”.  But I trudged into the screening hoping for the best. And while Club isn’t Oscar worthy, it’s an enjoyable lightweight story that flowed over me like the copious amounts of white wine the protagonists sip throughout.

While the story is sweet, this film is White People Problems made manifest.  With the exception of Andy Garcia, there’s not a single person in this movie that’s not a WASP. Not only are they white, they’re all incredibly well off.  So get ready to marvel at all the gorgeous living spaces, outfits and jewelry, not to mention how absolutely gorgeous these sixty-something women are.  For the average Josephine, this is a fairy tale.  One I eagerly gobbled up, but make-believe nonetheless.  You can tell from the font and color scheme of the opening credits that this film won’t tax your brain. But that’s okay; it’s going for your funnybone, with a stop or two somewhere around your naughty bits. And for what it’s trying to accomplish – to entertain and make you laugh while you swoon over all the rich stuff rich people have – it succeeds.

First-time director Bill Holderman shows great promise, with Club‘s pacing and editing. The story flows thanks to the endless amounts of talent from his legendary cast. Diane Keaton plays Diane (naturally), a woman who lost her husband and whose daughters think she should move to Arizona to live with them. Jane Fonda is Vivian, a tough as nails hugely successful businesswoman who eschews love for hookups. Candice Bergen’s Sharon is a Federal judge who hasn’t been with a man since her divorce eighteen years ago. And Mary Steenburgen plays Carol, a woman who has the perfect marriage, or so say all her friends.

As the various love interests, there’s Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss, and Craig T. Nelson. And Alicia Silverstone plays Diane’s overly worried daughter Jill. This ensemble works the screenplay like the acting champions they are.  Club isn’t a complicated story, nor is it something to really think about; it’s standard chick flick with Boomer age issues. It’s enjoyable, but it’s not heavy. The talents of the cast put a heart and humanity into this tale, which could have been an empty shell with lesser performers.

Take a moment to enjoy the Adult Contemporary soundtrack, with songs like “If Not For You” by Bob Dylan, Roxy Music’s “More Than This”, Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream”, Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening”, and the hauntingly beautiful “Ophelia” by Marika Hackman. Then let the gorgeous California and Arizona wide shots dazzle you as the cast effortlessly swings from one subplot to the next, combining laughter with real issues grown-ass adults face, like re-entering the dating scene, re-establishing intimacy, dealing with paranoid kids, and trying to open yourself up to new experiences.

While Deadpool 2 will surely sweep this weekend’s box office (deservedly so), folks looking for a sweet and sassy grownup romantic comedy with a killer ensemble cast should check this out sometime. Round up your pals, smuggle in some wine (or have a Netflix party in a few months) and have a good time.

#Protip: Where my Ryan Renolds fans at?  Because if you think you’ve seen Steenburgen and Nelson play husband and wife somewhere else, you’re spot on.  They played the parents of Ryan Renolds’ Andrew Paxton in 2009’s The Proposal. Great on-screen chemistry, right?

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