I’m not really 100% sure why I wanted to see this movie. As I said in my Breaking In review, Book Club “looked like it might be a quaint, funny movie about older ladies doing bombastic things”. For the most part, I was right but… well, let’s get into it.
SITWOL: Four older women decide to spice up their book club (and lives) by reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
Book Club is very reminiscent of the genre informally known as the “chick flick”. It has everything other chick flicks have: quirky & situational humor with quirky characters, a mountain of clichés, a very standard narrative formula, lighthearted and cheesy moments, and an extreme focus on romantic relationships.
That’s not to say that Book Club is all bad, not at all.
I actually enjoyed it a little bit. The four ladies (Diane Keaton the free-spirited widow, Jane Fonda the emotionally detached sex-escapader, Candice Bergen the no-nonsense federal judge, and Mary Steenburgen the sexually frustrated housewife) are all very entertaining and funny when they are all together. They all play off each other really well, and it’s very believable that they are old friends (despite the fact that their obligatory “old photos” montage, during the beginning, looked like laughable photoshop jobs).
One could make the argument that aside from their outward descriptions, their personalities are kind of interchangeable, but that didn’t really bother me that much because of their chemistry.
When they’re not together, they’re either with their specific love interest, or they are getting into shenanigans by themselves.
The respective level of entertainment largely depended on which scene they were doing. In descending order, it would go
1. talking with each other
2. with their love interest
3. anything else
That said, the comedy that happens among the ladies, and with each individual lady and their love interest, is enough to carry the movie. It is definitely watchable because of that entertainment factor alone.
There’s some really cute moments that happen in this movie too, and that was also a big plus.
Unfortunately, every other conceivable element I can think of is to the movie’s downfall.
First, there really isn’t anything special to this movie outside of its comedic dialogue. Everything happens as you’d expect it to happen. Also, all of the conflicts and character development is extremely shallow and is mostly demonstrated by exposition instead of action.
No joke, every single romantic relationship has a conflict transition, ALL of them happen at the exact same time, and ALL of them are resolved easily and quickly. Like I said, this movie often feels shallow.
Any sort of element that didn’t include the ladies and their love interests (like Diane Keaton’s clingy daughters or Candice Bergen’s entire career as a federal judge) were shockingly surface level and underdeveloped. It seemed like anything that didn’t include book club or the romance scenes were seen as secondary instead of important elements to the story. Most of the other characters felt like props.
By the way, Alicia Silverstone plays one of the “clingy daughters”,
and I can see why people think she’s a bad actor.
The soundtrack to this movie is a dumpster fire. Almost all of it was obnoxious, and any music that wasn’t obnoxious was unspecial stock music.
But what was the weirdest, most off-putting thing about this movie is just how much it whores itself out at the behest of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series.
Now, when I saw the previews for this movie, I thought that the adventures that happened in this movie were just spring-boarded by Fifty Shades of Grey, and that the book club would later focus on other types of books that could’ve been relevant later to the story. Instead, after they get done with the first book, they then move onto Fifty Shades Darker, and then by the end of the movie, they’re reading Fifty Shades Freed.
And the conversations eventually turn from the older ladies fluttering over the “naughty sex books”, to them praising the books for how deep and riveting they are.
No joke, in the middle of the movie, there’s even a cameo from E.L. James, the writer of the trilogy. And the cameo comes off like those shameless cameos that happen with Stan Lee and every Marvel movie in existence. It was at that exact moment when I realized that Book Club was written as a puff piece for the Fifty Shades books, maybe not entirely, but it was at least part of the plan.
The movie is also incredibly cheesy, but half of the time, they were able to make it work as humor or a cute romantic moment. The other half of the time, it was just bad, lazy writing.
Also, there’s a scene with a plane taking off, and it was pretty terribly green-screened.
So if you’re looking for a cute, entertaining movie that’s fun and by-the-book, then I would at least recommend giving Book Club a shot. It’s not high art by any means, but it has enough in it to not be entirely boring.
If you love the Fifty Shades of Grey movies, then you’re in luck; Book Club is a Fifty Shades brown-noser.
If you’re not entertained by the “chick flick” genre, or if you get bored by clichés and a hyper-use of narrative formula, then I probably would stay away, as Book Club doesn’t have much else to offer outside of that.
4 out of 10