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‘Book Club: The Next Chapter’ Review: A Romantic Cookie-Cutter Sequel



It’s past apparent that girls deserve a film that portrays and celebrates them of their sixties and seventies reveling within the joys of romantic journey and uninhibited intercourse. It’s not so apparent that they deserved “Book Club,” the 2018 comedy about 4 hale, hearty, and affluent senior buddies who learn “Fifty Shades of Grey” of their month-to-month literary white-wine klatsch, solely to find that E.L. James’s S&M princess fantasy jump-starts their hibernating libidos and/or their need to decide to the lads who’re courting them. You would use an entire Thesaurus paragraph of withering descriptives to evoke the kind of film “Book Club” was. It was prefab, it was cookie-cutter, it was paint-by-numbers, it was broad sufficient to play to the peanut gallery, it was 4 glorified sitcoms jammed into one overly artificial package deal.

And but…the film, in its story-parts-falling-into-place-far-too-neatly “Look how bawdy we’re being!” approach, allowed its quartet of iconic stars to inject a very cute and telegraphed situation with simply sufficient character and soul to get by. The 4 ladies, performed by Jane Fonda (hedonistic however emotionally distant resort proprietor), Diane Keaton (newly widowed and relationship-shy, with grown daughters who wish to transfer her throughout the nation), Mary Steenburgen (fortunately married restauranteur, however her husband is a stuffed shirt who’s solely getting stuffier), and Candice Bergen (federal decide who hasn’t had a date in 18 years), had been like characters in the hunt for a greater life, and possibly a greater film. “Book Club” wasn’t a great romantic comedy, precisely; it was virtually designed to be a responsible pleasure. But like all responsible pleasures that ship, it exuded a glow of snug amusement, and by the top you had been glad it existed. It gave voice to ideas and emotions we have to see extra of.

We get to see much more of them in “Book Club: The Next Chapter,” although in case you’re asking the place this sequel can go, given the pleased endings that greeted all 4 characters within the first movie, you’d be proper to surprise. Fonda’s Vivian, together with her stylish shag hair and spiky wit to match, had discovered love together with her long-ago paramour, performed by a really successful Don Johnson; the 2 are actually set to be married. Keaton’s Diane (sure, that’s the character’s title), together with her vibrant nervousness and Annie Corridor-at-70 wardrobe, had discovered love with Andy Garcia’s smiley chivalrous airline pilot Mitchell, and if he appears a bit too good to be true, along with his outlandishly picturesque Arizona property, right here’s a formula-movie information flash: He’s nonetheless that good!

Steenburgen’s Carol, all the time essentially the most settled and content material of the 4, has misplaced her restaurant within the pandemic’s financial downturn, however she’s high-quality with that change of life. The true battle that besets her has to do together with her husband, Craig T. Nelson’s crusty outdated bear Bruce, who has had a coronary heart assault. He got here by means of it high-quality, however she’s so afraid of shedding him that she’s obtained him on a joyless food regimen and a common vibe of overprotected severity that’s messing with their largely idyllic marriage. And Bergen’s Sharon? Having reconnected together with her amorous aspect, she has now retired from the bench, which has left her at unfastened ends.

These should not precisely conditions and conflicts destined to erupt into explosive comedian drama. The premise of “The Next Chapter” is that our heroines, after an excessive amount of hemming and hawing, resolve to comply with their bliss, stay a little bit dangerously and take a senior bachelorette voyage to Italy, all to have fun Vivian’s impending wedding ceremony. Given the luxurious Continental setting, you could possibly simply envision a movie that was “Eat, Pray, Love” x 4 + 16 added a long time of life expertise. A form of seniors-go-wild romantic travelogue meets Katharine Hepburn in “Summertime.”

However as soon as the chums arrive in Italy, “The Next Chapter” turns right into a collection of staid and unremarkable adventures. The unique movie reveled in its real-estate porn. This one has location porn (the architectural splendors of Rome, the mystic majesty of Venice, the Edenic tranquility of Tuscany), alcohol porn (late-night rounds of Prosecco and grappa), and, in a single procuring sequence, wedding-dress porn. All high-quality, although none of it fairly provides as much as a film.

At a resort bar, Sharon meets an expatriate retired philosophy professor (Hugh Quarshie), and simply as she tapped her inside freak in “Book Club” by having intercourse behind her automobile, right here the 2 go at it behind a water taxi. However it’s only a momentary fling (which feels a bit off; Hugh Quarshie is an interesting sufficient actor to look worthy of extra everlasting placement). At a cocktail party thrown as a lush backyard restaurant in Venice, Carol learns that the chef (Vincent Riotta) is none apart from her outdated instructor at culinary faculty. Is there a spark between them? For a second the film leads us to consider she would possibly stray, nevertheless it’s all squashed by an elaborate model of a kind of double-entendre jokes (this one is about “pulling dough”) that the “Book Club” motion pictures can’t get sufficient of.  

It’s all fairly wispy and anecdotal, which wouldn’t be a nasty factor if Invoice Holderman, the director of those movies, and Erin Simms, his co-screenwriter and producer, had squeezed extra texture into the anecdotes. Bear in mind when writers and administrators used to graduate from community tv collection to the massive display screen? Holderman and Simms come on like filmmakers who’re craving for the day that they will make a community collection. But the primary rule of “Book Club” is: By no means underestimate the cheeky sentimental old-girl-power irresistibility of “Book Club.” When “The Next Chapter” hits that vacation spot wedding ceremony, it uncorks a scene that almost makes the entire film value it. Vivian pours herself into getting married however in a stubbornly unbiased approach, which is Fonda’s approach of winking at her personal expertise. The scene is greater than a cute decision — it’s about longevity and id and nervousness and generosity. And love, truly.                    

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