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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Cinema Review: Book Club

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Typically, the funniest scenes in this sweet-natured, oldies’ rom-com had been given away in a trailer that, in hindsight, tended to diminish the movie’s more thoughtful intent. For when the naughty saucy jokes thin out, after mostly being crammed into the first act, there is a poignant story that looks at the emotional and psychological crises encountered by four women coping with arriving at a certain age. Attempting to re-energise their sexuality without necessarily yielding to society’s obsession with denying the passage of the years (contrast Jane Fonda’s worked-on face with Diane Keaton’s wrinkles), their amorous adventures are treated with amusement but not mockery by director and co-writer Bill Holderman. Diane, a widow, Vivian, the glamorous owner of five-star hotels, divorcee Sharon, a federal judge, and Carol, married but in a rut (Keaton, Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen), meet every month at their book club. Vivian’s insistence that they read Fifty Shades of Grey is initially scoffed at, but the ladies are turned on by it and determine to follow its erotic lead. The humour is risqué but hardly offensive – a Viagra sight-gag brought the house down – and the predictability of the script is lifted by a terrific cast. These are wonderful actresses and, each given equal time, they are flawless in their parts, with Keaton suggesting Annie Hall decades-on and Bergen unafraid to be the frumpy one (but classy, too). It is, however, yet another dose of Hollywood selling us the idea that the problems of a group of self-absorbed, attractive people enjoying perfectly sunny, ice-creamy lives in fabulous big homes really do amount to more than a hill of beans. A party of coiffed and frocked-up biddies, clearly having got stuck into the Chardies at luncheon beforehand, cackled all the way through the session I attended, which enhanced the experience no end and, with an astutely compiled soundtrack of golden oldies (including Hot Chocolate’s horny You Sexy Thing and Roxy Music’s More Than This), the outing was a lot more rewarding than I anticipated.

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