Book Club

Four friends from college now facing their senior years find their love lives shaken up when the most free-spirited among them, Vivian (Jane Fonda), chooses 'Fifty Shades of Grey' for their "Book Club."

Laura's Review: C

If Nancy Meyers were injected with some late stage, ensemble-theme-movie Garry Marshall, the result would be something like "Book Club." The only one of the four story lines which is worthwhile belongs to Candice Bergen in a wonderfully dry performance. Her divorced, federal court judge Sharon actually comes across as a real person. Unfortunately she's interacting with the sitcom characters that are Fonda's turn on "Sex and the City's" Samantha, Mary Steenburgen's married yet frustrated restaurateur Carol (one who spends little time cooking and even less in her restaurant) and Diane Keaton's widowed Diane whose two adult daughters (Katie Aselton and Alicia Silverstone) believe the spry 72 year-old is ready for a nursing home. For his feature debut, cowriter (with Erin Simms)/director Bill Holderman begins with shoddy photoshopped pictures that trace the four friends from their college days to the present. He's assembled a fabulous cast, one which, surprisingly, have never crossed paths on the big screen before. They seem to be enjoying each other's company and every so often we do as well. Vivian owns a luxury hotel and revels in her independence, taking lovers frequently with no strings attached. That's about to change when Arthur (Don Johnson), a man from her youth, walks through her lobby, despite Vivian's attempts to torpedo the romance. For once, she abstains from sex with this man, but the gambit allows him to court her with flowers and frolics in fountains. That the eighty year-old Fonda looks younger by far than her costars (Bergen and Keaton are 72, Steenburgen 65) is the most remarkable thing about her unremarkable plotline. Diane's being pressured to move from L.A. to Scottsdale where one of her daughters plans to shelve her in her basement. On the flight out, she stumbles awkwardly over Mitchell (Andy Garcia) getting to her window seat before downing some Valium to calm her flight nerves. Mitchell, who has a fabulous Arizona spread and his own plane, is charmed, but Diane cannot even bring herself to tell her daughters about this new romantic interest, so cowed is she by their smothering concern. Keaton's essentially playing her patented dithery self, complete with her idiosyncratic wardrobe, but Garcia's the most intriguing (and sexy) of the four male leads. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) loves her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) but he's shown no interest in sex in way too long. She signs them up for dancing lessons, which he loathes, and spikes his drink with Viagra, a breach of trust played here for laughs. Carol's story is by far the least interesting with the most cliched happy ending. Sharon's been quite happy being celibate for the eighteen years since her divorce from Tom (Ed Begley Jr.), who is now engaged to a woman who could be his daughter, but peer pressure (and perhaps the white wine these women drink by the caseload) encourages her to sign up on a dating site. Vivian's attempt to buy her Spanx for a date with tax accountant George (Richard Dreyfuss) is one of the film's highlights. Sharon's honesty over her romantic rustiness is met with gallantry and the date ends with the two acting like teenagers, so why does Sharon continue to play the field? A visit to the vet with her lethargic cat is an embarrassment of tired double entendres. In Nancy Meyers fashion, everyone lives in bright, sprawling homes that could be featured in a magazine spread. EL James's book isn't woven into the screenplay in any meaningful way, a shocked look from one of its readers here, a clueless husband missing a bondage reference there. While it is encouraging to see four senior talented actresses in a vehicle addressing sex at seventy, the writing here isn't smart enough for any of them. "Book Club" is forgettable piffle, but it has given me hope for the 'Murphy Brown' reboot. Grade:

Robin's Review: DNS