‘Book Club’ Review: Stellar Cast but Toothless in Its Imagination
This is a film that will fail the Bechdel test miserably.
The very existence of a movie like Book Club is brave considering how miserly Hollywood is when it comes treating its female veterans. This is a film that has actually cast four troupers in a mainstream comedy, targeting an audience Hollywood seldom cares for. To see Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen is sheer delight, because the company of such wonderful women who have cheered us through several decades is as good as acting gold gets.
If Book Club’s casting coup is a surprising win, the end product is a majestic waste of such talents. The quartet of screen legends get pushed into rom-com clichés with wine-guzzling, wince-inducing attempts at a witless comedy.
These four heterosexual women live in a world where politics doesn’t matter, health issues don’t pop up, and finance is never a concern. Everyone lives in shiny, bright-coloured aspirational houses, and are at different logjams of their personal lives.
Vivian (Jane Fonda) is a successful businesswoman who remains uncommitted, Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a federal judge who hasn’t dated since her divorce, Carol’s (Mary Steenburgen) marriage has lost its spark since the retirement of her husband, and Diane (Diane Keaton) is a recently widowed woman who is fed up of her two daughters’ overprotective instincts.
The four women have been friends since their youth, and they meet, wow, you guessed it right, at their book club, where they drink wine and umm discuss books.
The women began their book club in the ‘70s with Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, but in the current climate of the film, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey has got their attention. The steamy bestseller is never more than a publicity stunt, because the script written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms never really bothers about the kinky shadows of romance. It is toothless in its oomph and imagination, and is so good-natured that almost everyone feels like a member of Bollywood’s Rajshri family.
At the expense of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, these four women long past their menopause, try to manoeuvre different personal battles, to find love. But they do so with formulaic lines, and humour so outstandingly dated, you sigh in tepid response.
The chief idea that the film wishes to peddle is that no one is too old to romance, but Bill Holderman’s wishy-washy direction goes to toxic extremes to actually say that no woman is complete without a man, effectively patronising the same audience, it wishes to embolden. This is a film that will fail the Bechdel test miserably, and in our times of roaring feminism, definitely feels like an epic fail.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. He tweets @RanjibMazumder.)
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