The best thing about cinema, or any storytelling medium, is the symbiotic relationship with people and culture. The most wonderful, wonderful thing about the movies is that it’s a place where you can go and someone –a writer, director, fictional character, can put things that you’re feeling into words and therefore, start to make sense out of it all. They help us muddle through life, at least this is what I took away from Book Club.
The film follows a group of four mature women and lifelong friends who meet monthly for a book club. This month the group’s sassiest member puts forward Fifty Shades of Grey, a book that’s meant to be a bit of fun and a change of pace, but quickly transforms each of their lives as they start to question the politics of sex and love, as well as take a good look at the absence of both in their own lives.
It’s hard to determine exactly what kind of movie this is. While it’s definitely a romantic comedy, it falls into that grey area where films such as Ricki and the Flash and Hope Springs hang out: funny comedies, but ones that don’t seem to follow the straight and narrow genre path. There’s a less-funny-more-genuine complexity to them that makes the cinematic experience more intellectually stimulating rather than physically: more ‘I feel the need to think about that’ than promptly laugh out loud.
Each heroine goes through her own individual love story: one rekindles an old flame, one tries to spice things up in her marriage, one meets a genuinely lovely guy but feels guilty because her husband only passed away a year ago, and one turns to online dating. The stories themselves are genuine, simple, and sweet, and the quartet of ladies guiding each other through them are gorgeous. Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, and Mary Steenburgen make up a believable group of girl friends and while their performances are all very good, I can’t say I was very impressed with the way mature women were depicted. Two of the single women are married to the job with each having a certain level of coldness and ‘dragon woman’ about them, while another is widowed, and the last still happily married. However, they’re all inwardly depressed and ‘unfulfilled’ because they haven’t got love and this, of course, comes out in their book club where they hardly ever actually talk about the book and there is always a glass of wine in their hand. In a film that was just under two hours, the wine-less scenes didn’t even break double digits!
There are a number of laugh-out-loud moments, but for the most part the humour was subdued, allowing for the film’s pseudo-realistic vibe that makes it harder to slap a label on. It’s one of those movies that you watch, and smile at, and laugh at, but at the same time you’re not sure if you actually like it or not, it’s doesn’t inspire any sort of identifiable feeling inside.
And I guess for that reason, it’s a film worth watching if you’re curious.