'Book Club' fails to make good use of a stellar cast

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Things turn raunchy – and a bit silly – when members of a book club decide to read 'Fifty Shades of Grey.'

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Pictures via AP
Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, and Jane Fonda star in 'Book Club.'

By all rights, shouldn’t a movie starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen be worth seeing? In theory, yes. “Book Club,” a deeply mediocre rom-com, sorely tests that theory. Having amassed such a stellar cast, might it not have behooved its director and co-writer Bill Holderman to concoct a movie halfway worthy of them?

Here's the cast of characters: Diane (Keaton), recently widowed, with two overly concerned daughters; Sharon (Bergen), a federal judge who has been divorced for 20 years; Carol (Steenburgen), whose love life with her recently retired husband (Craig T. Nelson) has cooled; and Vivian (Fonda), a Beverly Hills hotelier who revels in unattached sex.

The latest book assignment in the long-running book club of these longtime friends is “Fifty Shades of Grey.” While there is some dissension about this choice – one of them wonders, is it even a book? – reading it sets in motion a series of uninspired giggly-raunchy escapades. I suppose it’s a positive thing to have the oldsters in this movie actively pursuing sex rather than acting like the usual fusty Hollywood grannies, but watching these actresses carry on like randy dingbats isn’t exactly a triumph for feminism, especially since, for at least two of the women, apparently all that is needed to achieve pure happiness are a pair of deus ex machina dreamboats, both single – Mitchell (Andy Garcia), an airline pilot who also conveniently has riches to burn, and Arthur (Don Johnson) Vivian’s old flame from 40 years ago. (And, given that his daughter Dakota stars in the “Fifty Shades” movies, was it some kind of creepy in joke to cast Johnson in this film?)

Despite the movie’s resolute unfunniness, I did enjoy a few of Bergen’s caustic quips, and Steenburgen is touching in a scene in which Carol tries to tap dance away her sadness. That’s about it. Grade: C- (Rated PG-13 for sex-related material throughout and for language.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'Book Club' fails to make good use of a stellar cast
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Movies/2018/0518/Book-Club-fails-to-make-good-use-of-a-stellar-cast
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe