Book Club Film Review
So, how do you make a successful romantic comedy? Well, first, you need a script with a memorable meet cute, relatable female characters, interesting male love interests, and the cherry on top: the fairy-tale like HEA (Happily Ever After). And don’t forget, the film needs to be funny! Hence the COMEDY part of the genre’s title. Then, you need a fantastic filmmaking team willing to produce and direct an unabashedly romantic film. Hence the ROMANTIC part of the genre’s title.
RELATED: PILLOW TALK – WATCH THE GOLD STANDARD IN A ROMANTIC COMEDY RESURGENCE
Next up are the cast. Once you have the characters on the page, you’ve got to cast the parts. First up, you’ve got to cast the leading lady (and in this case, ladies) to perfection. They need to be likable as well as talented. To be a successful rom-com queen, you need dramatic acting chops as well as comedic skill.
Then there’s the often-ignored (as of late) part of the formula: The leading man. As Leopold says in Kate & Leopold, “No one wants to be romanced by a buffoon!” Well, no one wants to watch a romantic comedy where the leading man is an unappealing juvenile. The audience wants to swoon just as much as the leading lady! Otherwise, we’ll make an excuse to leave the theater just as fast as a horrifying blind date.
Well, good news rom-com fans, Book Club checks all the right boxes. The film’s a romantic comedy success – and its surprising box office victory proves it. The critics, of course, gave the film bad to mediocre reviews. But don’t listen to them. The movie is hilarious from start to finish, proving there’s life still yet in the romantic comedy. Especially when done well. Sure, you can’t go in with a cynical, unsentimental mindset. Rather, if you go in with a love and appreciation for the genre, you’ll probably enjoy this movie. Especially since the actresses all prove their star-power is something young actresses could learn a thing or two from. It’s okay to be both a serious actress and a rom-com queen!
The film follows the story of four best friends who have a monthly book club. There’s Diane (Diane Keaton), a widow whose two daughters treat her like she’s a child. Vivian (Jane Fonda), the successful and glamorous business owner who’s single and claiming to love it. Sharon (Candice Bergen), the Judge who’s still not over her divorce. And Carol (Mary Steenburgen), the happily married chef who wants to reignite passion into her marriage.
In a way to spice up their book club, Vivian decides – much to the horror of the rest of the group – that they’re going to read Fifty Shades of Grey. She reminds them that they’re not dead yet and that they should keep living while they’re alive. Now, if you’re concerned like I was that this film is just one big Fifty Shades advertisement, you can set your worries aside. Their reactions to the book are hilarious and only a small part of the film. While there’s definite innuendo in this film, it’s not about women experimenting with BDSM, rather it’s about women choosing to live their lives and seek out old-fashioned romance for themselves even though they’re not young anymore. This is a PG-13 romantic comedy after all.
Soon after they each start reading the book, romance enters their lives in different ways. Diane has an adorable meet-cute with a dashing man on a plane (Andy Garcia) who asks her out on a date. Vivian reconnects with her one-true-love from her youth (Don Johnson). Sharon signs up hesitantly for a dating site and meets George (Richard Dreyfuss). And Carol attempts to spice up her married life with her devoted husband (Craig T. Nelson) who seems to have lost all interest in sex.
For a romantic comedy to work, the romances have to be believable. Thankfully, the romances in Book Club works on almost every level. Sharon’s “possible” future romance with Dreyfuss only has minimal screen time, as her story’s more about moving on from her divorce than falling in love. But, as for the rest, the romances are swoony and funny with appealing leading men. And you’ll laugh and smile at the resolution for each of the romances. The funniest belonging to the unforgettable grand gesture from Carol’s husband, Bruce.
A UNIQUE ROM-COM
The film stays true to the romantic comedy genre, while also throwing in some unique elements. Mostly due to the fact that instead of being about women in their 20s/30s, it’s about women who are 60 and 70+. So, it’s a refreshing take. Plus, the romances are more old-fashioned in their approach than you might expect from the trailers. So, while, Fifty Shades is the catalyst that leads to romance, the film is much more Nora Ephron in style than the R-Rated rom-coms that have made a splash in recent years.
Now is Book Club as good as films like Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail? No. But it’s also much better than recent rom-com fare and worthy of your time while it’s still in theaters. However, there is innuendo in the film and is not for younger audiences.
Overall, Book Club is an entertaining diversion that will make you cry with laughter and smile at the sweet romances. And while all four women (and the leading men opposite them) give wonderful comedic performances, Candice Bergen steals the show with witty one-liners and perfected comedic delivery. In all, these fabulous actresses have only gotten better with age proving that despite what media tells you, women don’t have an expiration date. Well, neither does the romantic comedy.
You can see Book Club at your local theaters.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo
Have you seen Book Club? What did you think? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!
Photos: Paramount Pictures
“You had me at hello.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”