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Reel Talk: ‘Book Club’ is sheer fun

May 19, 2018 GMT

What happens when four women, bound together by lifelong experiences, friends for decades, decide to tackle “Fifty Shades of Grey” in their thematic book club? Sheer fun! “Book Club” was co-written by Erin Simms and Bill Holderman, and directed by Holderman, who both stood their ground in creating a romantic comedy with four talented and older women.

Initially turned away from production companies who wanted younger actresses, the pair stuck to their guns to let Hollywood know there is a need for female-centric stories geared to the older-than-50 age group. Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen, all women well past their 50s, star in this film proving that while we all might get older, our hearts never do.

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Vivian (Fonda), Sharon (Bergen), Carol (Steenburgen) and Diane (Keaton) are in different stages of love and relationships, but their unique friendship, truly knowing the good, the bad and the ugly of one another, opens the doors of communication as they pore through the pages of their newest book and pour several bottles of wine.

Vivian, a wealthy and perpetually single hotel mogul, is the wild child of the group, professing her love of sex and proud of never having committed to one person. However, it becomes quite evident that she still holds a torch for Arthur (Don Johnson), the one that got away.

Sharon is a brilliant yet emotionally shut-down federal court judge with a cat named Ginsburger who, thanks to the women’s conversations delivered with point blank honesty, humor and heart, attempts to get over her divorce — from 18 years ago.

Diane, a widow with two overprotective daughters, falls, literally, for a pilot (Andy Garcia) while hiding the truth from her loving daughters. And Carol’s marriage is falling apart before her eyes, wrestling with the lack of intimacy with her husband.

These women are an emotional amalgam representing almost every woman older than 50 in some capacity.

“Book Club” is fun: a good, old-fashioned story where we get to know the characters, root for them and watch them all develop in their own way with their own style. Never losing a comedic beat, each scene is filled with humor, no matter the discussion or situation.

And, of course, when you’re honest with yourself and others about having read the trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey,” you know exactly what these women are thinking.

The film captures an element of female friendship that perhaps most films typically don’t. We see and feel a connection among and between women that develops as we get older.

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Our guards come down and we allow ourselves to reveal the very core of our souls and our relationships, sometimes to our significant other’s chagrin, with our best friends. And we always have each other’s backs. Always.

The story itself uses the “Fifty Shades” book as a vehicle to allow the women to break down that last door to talk freely about sex, what’s missing and regrets in life. And if you think it’s preposterous that these women would read this book, the genesis of the story is from the writers gifting their mothers with this all-consuming novel for their book club.

While much of the actual story arc is predictable, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. It’s a typical “boy meets girl,” “girl loses boy” story, but all four characters have their own version of it.

A classic scene is seeing Sharon attempt to go to an online dating site and accidentally uploading a photo in which she’s not exactly looking her best. Bergen shows us she still has what it takes to stand out as the comedic thread in this film.

For those of us who loved her reactions, superb timing and subtle inflection as “Murphy Brown,” we are reminded that she is still a genius in the art of comedy.

Keaton is Keaton, the somewhat ditzy lady we love to love. She’s quirky and sweet with a funky edge that we all hope we can attain at her age. And her love interest and story couldn’t be any more romantic.

Fonda’s confidence in her role and her ability to laugh at herself, thanks to the creative writing, is welcomed, as is Steenbergen’s performance as a giving, loving and frustrated wife.

Together, this ensemble cast and talented writers give female audiences who are older than 50 a reason to go to the theater, and it reminds us that we all still need and want a good (and funny) love story to believe in —even if it’s only for a couple of hours.

There are plenty of stories to tell for all the diverse groups of people in our world, and women older than 50 are one such “diverse” group.

3½ out of 4 stars.