Book Club: the next Chapter (2023)

May 12th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Bill Holderman; Cast: Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Greg T. Nelson; USA 2023, 107 min.

Bill Holderman thought he was on to a good thing when Book Club, his feature debut, hit the big screen back in 2018. This follow-up is not as funny or well-written but takes up where he left off, and with the same team of Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and their love interests Don Johnson, Andy Garcia and Greg T. Nelson. Their star power carries Book Club: the next Chapter from cover to cover.

First time around “50 Shades of Grey” was the book up for discussion. This time around “The Alchemist” provides the reading matter. But rather than reading the focus is on a trip to Italy for a last ‘hurrah’ before Vivian (Fonda) settles down with Arthur (Johnson). What could be more romantic than an Italian wedding? Well, what starts as a joyride in Rome soon turns into a catalogue of disasters.

On the plus side, Book Club: the next Chapter looks ravishing, DoP Andrew Dunn pulling all the stops out with his camerawork and plenty of frothy dialogue. But something is lacking: a spark to set it all on fire. Fonda is regal; Steenburgen mischievous; Candice Bergen sarcastic and self-deprecating and Diane Keaton hoping for a better version of Woody Allen to spar with. But the script lets these ladies down badly. Which is a shame, because so much talent deserves something brave and daring. Certainly not this orderly retreat behind bland in-jokes and telegraphed plot changes. So not much of a page-turner, just a reliable comedy blighted by the fate of all sequels. . AS


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