Arts

Film review: Bergen, Fonda et al a far better cast than Book Club deserves

Four of Hollywood's older leading ladies discover the joy of Fifty Shades of Grey in Book Club and clearly find it a spanking good read. The film itself isn't quite as titillating for Damon Smith

Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda in Book Club

LET'S talk about sexagenarians. Writer-director Bill Holderman's frothy romantic comedy stars Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen in underwritten roles as lifelong friends, who have forgotten what it means to grow old disgracefully.

One leaf through the pages of EL James's erotic thriller Fifty Shades Of Grey, the chosen text for a monthly book club, and these likeable heroines are enjoying first-date sex on the back seat of a car, slipping Viagra pills into a spouse's beer and inadvertently grabbing the crotch of an adjacent passenger on a commercial flight.

"If women our age were meant to have sex, God wouldn't do what He does to our bodies," argues Bergen's feisty federal court judge.

Book Club arrives in cinemas more than seven years after James's swoonsome literary beau, Christian Grey, whipped wide-eyed readers into a frenzy. It's hard to believe that one of the characters in the film wouldn't have secretly read the bestseller in that period but Holderman's film, which is co-written by Erin Simms, doesn't tarry on matters of likelihood or logic.

Not when contrivances and coincidences can be piled one atop another to provide the four likeable leading ladies with predictable sub-plots that ensure they all reach the end credits with willing suitors and a sheen of contentment.

Best friends Diane (Keaton), Vivian (Fonda), Sharon (Bergen) and Carol (Steenburgen) merrily reunite each month over glasses of chilled white wine to discuss a book chosen by one member of the coterie.

Hotel manager Vivian elects to introduce her shocked pals to Christian Grey's notorious Red Room.

"I haven't had sex since my divorce and it's been the happiest 18 years of my life," quips Sharon, who has recently learnt that her ex-husband Tom (Ed Begley Jr) has taken a pneumatic young blonde (Mircea Monroe) as his fiancee.

As agreed, the women devour the pages of the chosen tome and James's lurid descriptions of spanking and bondage spark lustful thoughts.

Doting wife Carol seeks new ways to reinvigorate her marriage to husband Bruce (Craig T Nelson) while Sharon is persuaded to sign up to an internet dating site and matches with accountant George (Richard Dreyfuss).

Vivian has a chance encounter with old flame Arthur (Don Johnson) and recently widowed Diane is swept off her feet by airline captain Mitchell (Andy Garcia) during a visit to her grown-up daughters Jill (Alicia Silverstone) and Adrianne (Katie Aselton).

Unlike the luminous leading ladies, Book Club feels tired and outdated. The cast enlivens a plodding script and injects vim into scenes of sisterly solidarity that might otherwise become clogged with emotional syrup.

Fonda savours every slink of her man eater and Bergen can make even the dullest one-liner sing. They are far better than Holderman's picture deserves.

BOOK CLUB (12A, 104 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton, Ed Begley Jr, Mircea Monroe. Director: Bill Holderman

RATING: 5/10

Released: June 1 (UK & Ireland)

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