Book Club

 

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A ragbag of ageing Hollywood stars rediscover their juices in a sitcom mired in cliché.

 

Book Club

The Californian Literary and Facial Peel Society: Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen

 

There’s a morbid fascination in watching autumnal stars like Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen talk about sex. Book Club, the story of four life-long girlfriends who read Fifty Shades of Grey – and are transformed – is a car crash. You just can’t avert your eyes. Ms Fonda is now a stately octogenarian and, as Vivian, she bats out lines like, “I don’t sleep with people I like – I gave that up in the nineties.” She is something of a nymphomaniac and looks amazing for a woman of eighty, albeit with cosmetic reinforcement. Yet the film, which marks the directorial debut of co-scripter Bill Holderman, does not shy away from saying so.

 

The crux of the sitcom is the line, “the memory is the second thing to go,” as uttered by ageing Lothario Don Johnson. Hard to imagine we’d ever see Sonny Crockett hit on an 80-year-old. But times are a’ changin’, surgery is improving and the grey pound is blooming. Johnson himself is just 68 and is now best known as the father of Anastasia Steele, a joke the film is not meta enough to crack.

 

Bubbling beneath the frippery and shock-horror of the flaccid classes as depicted here, lies a darker, more interesting film which Holderman and Erin Simms’ screenplay fails to develop. A dying libido can be a tragic thing, as well as a welcome relief (for some). However, the message of this soap is that “it’s worth living while you still can,” as voiced by another ageing Lothario, this time embodied by a charismatic, albeit paunchy Andy Garcia. He’s a jet-setting airline pilot and whisks Diane Keaton off her feet – and that is the film’s problem. Jane Fonda’s Vivian, who runs an up-market hotel, can afford her boob lifts, as can Candice Bergen’s federal judge. For the less fortunate, old age can be a savage beast.

 

Furthermore, the stars’ back catalogue haunts the film. When Bergen gingerly turns the pages of E.L. James’ sensational best-seller, her mouth drops open. The actress may waddle across the courtroom now, but she used to star in films called Carnal Knowledge. And much of the dialogue should have been excised in the editing room, not least when Bergen’s vet refers to her “lethargic pussy.” Really? Oh, he meant her cat!

 

Mses Fonda, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen have four Oscars between them (and co-star Richard Dreyfuss has another) and they should know better. Still, they appear to be having fun and do remember their lines, some of which aren’t half-bad (“Love is just a word until somebody gives it meaning” – Ms Bergen). But with actresses of this calibre, one might have wished for something more real, something more significant. After all, Vivian quotes Dylan Thomas and Bergen’s ex, Ed Begley Jr, recites Shakespeare. Would that there were a scintilla of truth. Besides, “truth hath a quiet breast” (King Richard II).

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Andy García, Don Johnson, Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton, Ed Begley Jr, Wallace Shawn, Mircea Monroe.

 

Dir Bill Holderman, Pro Andrew Duncan, Erin Simms, Bill Holderman and Alex Saks, Screenplay Bill Holderman and Erin Simms, Ph Andrew Dunn, Pro Des Rachel O’Toole, Ed Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, Music Peter Nashel, Costumes Shay Cunliffe.

 

June Pictures-Paramount Pictures

103 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 1 June 2018. Cert. 12A.