fri 23/02/2024

Book Club: The Next Chapter review - lacklustre dialogue, clichéd plot | reviews, news & interviews

Book Club: The Next Chapter review - lacklustre dialogue, clichéd plot

Book Club: The Next Chapter review - lacklustre dialogue, clichéd plot

Rom-com travelogue aimed at the silver market wastes its veteran stars' talents

As neither Visconti nor Roeg is at the helm, Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen have nothing to fear in Venice

I was once invited to join a book club by a bunch of friendly, clever women. But their conversation began with whether they liked the novel’s central characters enough to imagine having dinner with them and from there, descended into swapping tips about conquering visible panty line and the effectiveness of various moisturisers.

I didn’t last long (two sessions, maybe three), which is one way to warn anyone bothering to read this one star review, that I am probably not the ideal demographic audience for Book Club: The Next Chapter.

We first meet Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen holding their regular session on Zoom. Cue jokes about not having mics switched on and wondering why one of them has a potato filter over their face. Sharon (Candice Bergen) has retired as a judge; covid has done for the restaurant run by Carol (Mary Steenburgen), Diane (Diane Keaton) is widowed and Vivian (Jane Fonda) has been proposed to by her swain, Arthur (Don Johnson). I couldn’t work out what Diane and Vivian did for a living but whatever it was, it has certainly left them with plenty of spare cash for glamorous kitchens and high end holidays. With the pandemic’s travel restrictions lifted and inspired by their reading of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist with its  "live your dreams" message, the ladies decide to conduct Vivian’s bachelorette in Italy. Off they head to Rome, Venice, Florence and Tuscany.  

The current writer’s strike in Hollywood is partly inspired by the fear of what AI tech is going to do to scripts in the future. Will it make the scenarists’ craft redundant as bots churn out screenplays based on all-encompassing algorithms? Will writers find their earnings devastated because all that will be required of them is a little polish? It's a grim prospect. But the predictability of the lacklustre dialogue and clichéd plot of Book Club: The Next Chapter makes me wonder if AI hasn’t already been deployed here. I haven’t seen the original 2018 film, in which four old friends inspired by reading Fifty Shades of Grey, embark on erotic/romantic adventures, but it was such a box office success that the sequel has had considerably more money spent on going on location, if not on a decent writer.

The Italy we see is so cleaned up for the cameras that the production might as well have stayed home and used CGI and stock images. The ladies ogle all the famous statues and crack feeble jokes about men and meatballs. They sink endless glasses of prosecco with nary a hangover. Lucky septuagenarians to have such gold-plated livers. There is a lengthy sequence involving Vivian trying on a series of bridal gowns, each one more fantasy princess dress-up than the previous. A few mishaps are thrown in for comedic jeopardy purposes. In Venice their luggage is stolen, driving to Tuscany their car gets a flat tire and they mistake a handsome policeman for a Stripagram and end up spending the night in a cell. But none of this gives them backache or even smudged mascara. Nothing truly dents the ladies fun. Louche lotharios turn out to be good guys and sex is enjoyed in a rocking gondolier. Hugh Quarshie belts out "Gloria" in Italian, Craig T Nelson and Andy Garcia are parachuted in and Giancarlo Giannini plays a twinkly policeman. 

All these actors deserve a far better script than the one they were given. Grace and Frankie this ain’t. Neither is it The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or a Mama Mia movieCandice Bergen and an unnamed musician playing a violin at the wedding are the only performers who deploy physical comedy. Book Club: The Next Chapter aims to be a screwball rom-com for silver haired cinemagoers but ends up being patronising to its veteran stars and, occasionally, oddly mean. One of the gal pals describes Jane Fonda’s face as being “the work of many skilled artisans”. Miaow. Stay home and read a book.

Mishaps are thrown in for comedic jeopardy purposes

rating

Editor Rating: 
1
Average: 1 (1 vote)

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