Rob Reviews "Book Club: The Next Chapter"
I know that what I am about to write is going to seem odd but roll with me for a bit. Book Club: The Next Chapter may be the first film I have seen that deals with the pandemic in a way whose logic actually works into its script. The opening few minutes are a quick journey through Zoom meetings amongst friends as they try to keep their book club alive, and I know that a lot of us kept our social connections up in this exact way (tech issues and all).
As the lockdown begins the process of opening the world back up, Carol (Mary Steenburgen) has her closest friends since college over to her house to talk books and break bread together. Sharon (Candice Bergen) has officially retired from the law bench while Diane (Diane Keaton) is still just kind of doing what she does. As Vivian (Jane Fonda) arrives, she reveals that she is engaged to be married to Arthur (Don Johnson), and along with their reading of The Alchemist they decide to go off on an adventure of their own in Italy to coincide with Vivian’s bachelorette party, and things happen as they continue to learn about each other and themselves.
I did enjoy the first film when it came out five years ago, but I chose not to revisit it before seeing Book Club: The Next Chapter to see if it could stand on its own. Fortunately, it does as I found myself smiling quite a bit as this story unfolded. The first fifteen minutes do feel a bit clunky, but perhaps that is a conscious decision co-writer and returning director Bill Holderman made as the ladies gather for the first time in person in a while. (I cannot excuse what felt like rough editing in that sequence, though.) There is A LOT of double entendre here (especially in the first act), which wore on me a bit but just seemed to settle in as the film went on. The give-and-take with each of the ladies felt organic with each of them even getting their own story arc that doesn’t feel forced into the larger narrative. The foreshadowing has all of the subtlety of hurling a sledgehammer through drywall, but this is not the type of film that I expected subtlety in.
If I had to sum up my thoughts on Book Club: The Next Chapter in two words, those words would simply be “silly fun”. Although I do have a group of buddies that l like to pal around with on a regular basis, I wish for all of us that there are geographically desirable people we have friends with since before we were legally old enough to drink and have adventures with like these characters have with each other. Even if you do, this is a good film to escape with and enjoy.