Here's why 'Book Club' is a love story for women of all ages
Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen star in "Book Club."
What I have in common with the characters of Book Club isn't apparent on the surface. I don’t have Jane Fonda’s long and lean body, or Mary Steenburgen’s prominent cheekbones. And at 30, I'm less than half the age of the movie's youngest leading lady. Still, I found the comedy (in theaters Friday) to be the cinematic version of a page-turner.
Fair warning: I am a romantic at heart, and the three words that make me melt are "Hallmark Channel movie." So I was understandably enticed by the blooming love lives of characters played by Fonda (80), Steenburgen (65), Candice Bergen and Diane Keaton (both 72). It made my list of romance movies to see this year. (Surprise to no one, I have a list!) And as Season 1 of Grace and Frankie taught me, when it comes to lost love, hearts break the same at any age. Book Club is further evidence that throughout the stages of life, the remedy remains booze, besties and Ben & Jerry's.
The film was likely made without someone my age in mind: A survey conducted by AARP found that moviegoers 50 and up constitute 31% of all moviegoers older than 14. That audience also goes to the theater approximately 2% more often than the general population, the research found.
But presumably, a woman of any age could identify with these characters: The movie centers around a group of friends whose romantic lives heat up as they read E.L. James' provocative Fifty Shades trilogy. (Though the last of the titillating texts published in 2012, the choice aligns with their book club's theme for the year: best sellers made into movies.)
Sharon (Bergen) is guilty of mourning a relationship far past its expiration date; she and her ex-husband Tom (Ed Begley Jr.) divorced nearly 20 years ago. If only my friends had a nickel for every time at brunch I brought up my ex, they would ask someone how to transfer all those nickels to Venmo. A motivated Sharon finds the courage to sign up for the Bumble dating app, and gets to experience that thrilling seesaw of signing on and off and on again. I am currently (mostly) ignoring two apps in addition to Bumble: Tinder and The League.
Vivian (Fonda), too afraid of getting hurt, makes herself emotionally unavailable as a defense mechanism. Who hasn't been there?
Diane (Keaton), dealing with a ghosting of the sincerest form (her husband actually died), experiences the exciting tingle of a new relationship with Mitchell (Andy Garcia). (Side note: Writers Erin Simms and Bill Holderman did such a good job making his character desirable, a woman behind me let out a satisfied "all right" when he appeared onscreen.)
For those in a relationship,
what’s that like? the movie has a plot line for you, too. Carol (Steenburgen), experiencing a dry spell with her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), goes to extreme lengths to spice up their marriage.
Jane Fonda explains that film companies are catching up with the "older woman" market, while Don Johnson suggests the pair's new movie, "Book Club," will help men express tenderness. (May 10)
The movie played well to the Mother's Day audience I saw it with, fresh from makeovers, massages and light bites provided as part of a celebration prior to the screening. A few men were scattered in the crowd, but the majority of viewers were women, with friends or on mother-daughter dates.
And perhaps not all attendees were aware of the résumés of the acting legends onscreen. One woman next to me, probably in her late 20s or early 30s, asked which of the cast members was Fonda. But that didn't keep what felt like the entire theater from howling at the film's jokes, which were often quite sexual. It's not necessarily how I'd envision my parents or grandparents talking about sex, but the dialogue felt real. It felt like how I would talk to my friends about relationships ... if I weren't ignoring all the apps.
Though the movie offers romance, it is, at its core, about the friendships that long outlive dalliances. The support, doses of reality and wine refills the women in Book Club give each other transcend age brackets. And I will always drink to that.