Let’s do some reading.
Book Club is the latest regurgitation of the old romantic comedy film where we cast people much better than the script and try to pretend we haven’t seen it all before.
(“But Jay, isn’t that the same thing you say about most horror films?” Yep.)
Rom coms can be fun, but they rely on snappy dialogue and good pacing. Book Club tries to break up this formula by focusing the story on a group of older women who are all in various stages of romantic trouble. They decide to read 50 Shades of Gray to spice things up, and it works… kind of.
Diane (Diane Keaton) plays a skittish woman who is being pressured into moving closer to her children (who treat her like an invalid), but she meets a charming pilot named Mitchell (Andy Garcia) who makes her feel young again. Vivian (Jane Fonda) reconnects with an old flame Arthur (Don Johnson), but she doesn’t want a relationship. Sharon (Candice Bergen) a federal judge who doesn’t think she can find anyone again. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) finds herself in a sexless marriage with Bruce (Craig T. Nelson).
Does that sound like a lot to juggle? It honestly isn’t, but we don’t get into the characters’ heads as much as we should. Instead we hammer through predictable scenarios until the credits roll. We end up with a sometimes humorous, but mostly empty meal.
Oddly, the film is so familiar yet manages to screw up a lot of moments. I think the overall message that old people are still people is valid (and oddly relevant, but that is another discussion), but the way they go about it in this movie doesn’t work. A major problematic with romantic comedies is that we can’t have normal people in normally humorous situations—we have to go over-the-top. The humor only works when we can relate to it, and a lot of the stuff in this film is simply unrelatable, or problematic.
50 Shades of Gray is shit fan-fiction of a shit novel that doesn’t understand consent. Glorifying it here (among a group who seems to enjoy actual literature) is stupid and is helping to further the bizarre popularity of this crap. We also get images of stalking (Don Johnson tracks down Fonda and travels across the country to ambush her), and you might think that is a fairly harsh reading of the scene, but is it? Why can’t we have humorous situations that don’t cross the line into real-life dangerous situations? A quick edit to the script could make these scenes tragic, not supposedly funny.
Sure, I might be thinking too hard on this. I had even wondered that—until we have a scene that invokes date-raping with drugging someone’s drink. Stupid decision here folks.
So, bad taste humor, unoriginal storytelling, and the only thing different is the age of the leads. Too bad none of the characters seem self-aware as the scenes and plots drag on at a snail’s pace towards their easily seen end. This movie wants to say something but has no idea how—and its reach extends it grasp. You’ll laugh a few times, but this one is just another copy of a film we have already seen.