Four lifelong friends find inspiration and titillation through E. L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey in Bill Holderman’s directorial debut Book Club. Friends for 40 years, Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) have seen each other through career accomplishments and romantic ups and downs. Despite life taking them in different directions, they make a point to reconnect via their monthly book club meetings.
Though each woman has led successful professional lives they all lack a certain level of excitement in their romantic life. This becomes glaringly clear when Vivian selects James’ popular novel as her book choice of the month. Initially scoffing at the idea, the women quickly become inspired by the passion and romance within the novel. Igniting a fearlessness in them, the four women decide to step outside of their romantic comfort zones and rediscover themselves in the process.
While the notion of older women reading a saucy novel like Fifty Shades of Grey might seem like a one joke premise, the script by Erin Simms and Holderman manages to get plenty of mileage out of it. There are plenty of one-liners, metaphors and double entendres in the first half to keep the comedic beats rolling. This ultimately adds to the delightful interactions between the great cast, which includes Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Ed Begley Jr. and Richard Dreyfuss. The film also raises several interesting points about sex, relationships and independence in terms of aging.
As enjoyable as the film is, it is not without its problems. Much like Sex and the City, which serves as a spiritual template for the film, the film lacks diversity. It is yet another in a long line of films where successful women are shown via a certain lens. The film also misses the opportunity to truly dive into its themes and characters deeper, the men are charming but one dimensional, by opting for traditional romantic comedy tropes in the latter half.
Arriving on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo Pack today courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution, there are a handful of bonus content on the blu-ray to dive into. The most notable one is the “It All Started with a Book” featurette where Simms, Holderman and the whole cast discuss the journey bringing the film to the screen. This includes family inspirations, E.L. James’ involvement, dealing with the Weinstein Company who wanted younger leads, and much more.
Despite its foibles, Book Club is far more entertaining than one would expect it to be. It is a fun reminder that it is never too late to turn the page of one’s life.
Deleted & Extended Scenes
It All Started with a Book
Casting Book Club
Location, Location, Location
A New Chapter