For the last thirty years, four women have been meeting together each month to choose a book to read. Lifelong friends Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Sharon (Candice Bergen) take it in turns to choose which book the group should read. This time it is the steamy novel ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’, a choice of which will have unforeseen impacts on all their lives.
'...is a genteel romantic comedy much in the style of ‘The Last Marigold Hotel.'
‘Book Club’ is a genteel romantic comedy much in the vein of ‘The Last Marigold Hotel’ – and with the same target audience in mind. Whereas both are wam and fluffy, ‘Book Club’ is an intrinsically American comedy which avoids any excess reality to ground your disbelief.
In the growing ‘silver surfer’ cinema market, the ‘Book Club’s’ casting of household names definitely carries dependable performances. Whilst all of the four female leads are fine, particular note should be paid to Candice Bergen’s prudish-part-caustic Sharon providing the most interesting character arc of all. However she is not the focus – this is an ensemble comedy and in its attempt to balance everyone’s desired “happy ending”, the dramatic heft that gave ‘The Marigold Hotel’ its telling crossover appeal is nowhere to be seen. Instead, overly-telegraphed resolutions (that’ll have no one reaching for their tissues) bends the plot to its feel-good mantra.
So, by its close ‘Book Club’ finishes as a whimsical comedy that delivers upon its intended chocolate-box sentimentality. This is provided you can suspend your disbelief at a book club being seduced by the works of E. L. James – a repeating product placement – which by its end has shifted from catalytic macguffin to an unintentional groan – as it repeatedly works its way back into the plot.
From its don’t-you-remember-them-from casting to its ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ et al thievery, ‘Book Club’ is a movie that is as inoffensive as it is dramatic. With no surprises and albeit a slightly comedic premise, this is a movie that will probably find sheltered accommodation with US audiences but will struggle overseas where they like a little bit more salt with their sugar.