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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 4, 2018

Book Club Movie Review: An Endearing Romantic-Comedy About Four Smart Women In The Sunset Of Their Lives

JANE FONDA is turning 81 in December and at her age, she remains to be a very active working actress. She’s been married three times and we love her statement: “It’s never too late, never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”

The daughter of the late actor, Henry Fonda, we remember her very first movie, “Tall Story”, with Anthony Perkins. We saw it in high school and since then, she has won two Oscar best actress awards for “Klute” in 1971 where she played a prostituted and “Coming Home” in 1978, anti-Vietnam war drama perferctly in line with her being an activist then.

She currently stars in the Netflix sitcom series, “Grace and Frankie”, where she and Lily Tomlin (they were together in the movie, “9 to 5”) play the wives of Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, late blooming closet queens who left their wives so they can be together. The series is now on its 4th season but Jane also remains active in doing movies.

In 1967, she did the Neil Simon movie, “Barefoot in the Park”, with Robert Redford, where they played newlyweds. That was 50 years ago. They also did “The Chase” and “Electric Horseman”. Last year, they were reunited in the Netflix movie, “Our Souls at Night”, where they play a lonely widow and widower, neighbors in Colorado, where Jane proposes to Redford: “Would you be interested in coming to my house to sleep with me? It’s about getting through the night.” It’s a touching story of romance in an autumnal stage in life.

And now, Jane is in the new movie, “Book Club”, where she co-stars with other veteran actress like Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. See it right away as this is not the type of film that will last long in theaters.

Jane is the eldest in this batch because Diane (who won the Oscar for “Annie Hall” is only 72, Candice (who won several Emmies and Golden Globes for “Murphy Brown”) is 71 and Mary (Oscar awardee for “Melvin & Howard”) is 65. So, hooray for this rare romantic comedy that gives a chance to seasoned actress to do lead roles.

What binds the four women is their being members of a book club. They choose a book to read it then discuss it in their next meeting. The book they chose is “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the movie version of which starred Dakota, the daughter of Don Johnson who later appears in “Book Club”. But we guarantee you that an appreciation of the novel (and its sequels) is not at all necessary to enjoy “Book Club” as it’s just used as a point of departure for the movie to take off.

Each character is given her own story of romance among older women in Santa Monica. Fonda is Vivian, who has remained an old maid. She owns a big hotel, likes sex, but is afraid of commitment so she prefers one night stands. Diane’s character is also named Diane, a widow whose husband just died after 40 years of marriage and acts as narrator of the film’s bookends. She has two daughters (Alicia SIlverstone and Katie Aselton) who are both married but she prefers to live on her own than stay with any of them.

Candice is Sharon, a federal judge who is divorced and hasn’t been in a relationship for 18 years, except with her cat. Her ex-husband and their son are now both engaged so she tries dating via the internet. Mary as Carol is the only one who’s happily married. She’s a chef and her husband of 35 years is Craig Nelson. But their sex life has suffered after his retirement.

As a romcom, the film succeeds in achieving its goals of being an uplifting story that helps perpetuate the fantasy of finding true love even in your sunset years. Though the characters face some hitches here and there, everything eventually ends well for everyone.

Jane Fonda’s former flame, a radio DJ she first met 40 years ago, Don Johnson (whose actually younger than her as he’s only 68), appears to keep her company although she’s hesitant at first. Diane Keaton finds romance in a good looking airline pilot, Andy Garcia, who played her nephew in “The Godfather III”. Soon, she’s flying high with him. Candice Bergen, who remains to be the spitfire that was Murphy Brown, also finds her partner in Richard Dreyfuss through a dating app, while Mary Steenburgen and her hubby rekindle their romance and remain committed to their relationship while dancing to the music of Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love”.

The whole cast is appealing, but Jane stands out for being more colorful and showy. Diane wisely
chooses to be quietly stylish in interpreting her role. Among the males, Andy Garcia manages to shine with a mischievous performance and he delivers a truly hilarious one-liner. Mary’s romance with her husband is the most real and also has the best ending.

We don’t know if millennial viewers would enjoy watching this old fashioned tale about geriatrics finding romance late in life and realizing they still have a lot of living to do. But we sincerely hope younger movie goers will give it a chance since writer-director Bill Holderman competently shows us that age is really just a number in this appealing well acted rom-com. It won’t challenge the supremacy of CGI spectaculars “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Deadpool 2” at the box office, but younger viewers will surely enjoy its own feel-good charms that warm the heart and also manage to give us a good laugh.