“Book Club” wants to be “The Golden Girls.” But it’s mostly brass.
The femme-centric comedy out Friday stars four fun actresses — Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda — as women of a certain age, and in a lifelong friendship.
Instead of sharing digs in Florida, though, they’re all living independently in California, where they meet for gossipy book-club sessions, fueled by white wine and lovely snacks.
But then Vivian, the group’s sexpot, picks their new novel — “50 Shades of Grey.” Cut to closeups of gleefully shocked faces as they turn the pages.
Cut to them all deciding to turn over a new page in their love lives.
Vivian wonders about a romance she ran from, 40 years ago. Carol decides to put the magic back in the marital bedroom. And the widowed Diane and long-divorced Sharon dive back into the dating pool.
The filmmakers have a good idea for a comedy here. They just don’t have enough good comedy here.
The stars are all fine. Keaton and Bergen, who play Diane and Sharon, are as warm and winning as ever. Steenburgen breaks out the spunky tap-dancing talents she first showed off in “Melvin and Howard.”
Fonda is a little cold and brittle as Vivian — you could cut yourself on her voice — but that’s been her persona for a while, and, anyway, it works for the character.
It’s the supporting parts that are terribly written.
Men supposed to come off as charming seem creepy. Grown daughters meant to be a little overprotective seem controlling and rude. Jokes about Viagra overdoses and foundation garments feel stolen from another movie.
And even for a romantic comedy, the script is tiresomely predictable. The small conflicts that are introduced are obviously and quickly resolved. The few moments that could build into something — a melodramatic dance instructor, an awkward night of passion — are thrown away.
Even small details feel cheap and tossed off, from badly cut-in shots of the Arizona desert to shameless product placements for everything from dating websites to chain restaurants.
And I mean — really. You upend your life to move closer to your daughters and their idea of a celebration is to take you to a Buca di Beppo? That’s reason enough to move back to L.A.
Still, it’s a treat to see these actresses, and to watch their confidence — and their honesty.
Fonda’s character revels in her youthful looks, but also reveals they’ve come with surgical assists. Bergen, who’s put on weight, says without guilt “I like to eat.” Keaton and Steenburgen, meanwhile, simply look terrific — great genes, I guess.
What’s really beautiful, though, is their outlook. In the movie, all these women are in their late 60s (in real life, Fonda is 80). But they’re not willing to stop living. They’re not willing to give up. They’re not willing to settle.
Too bad they settled for this.
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