Film Review: BOOK CLUB (USA 2018)

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Book Club Poster

Four lifelong friends have their lives forever changed after reading 50 Shades of Grey in their monthly book club.


Bill Holderman


The BOOK CLUB is made up of Diane, Vivian, Sharon and Carol played by veteran stars Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen respectively, and listed in order of both their popularity and importance of their roles in the film.  All four have had their hey day, Fonda with her Oscar Winning KLUTE, breaking into fame with CAT BALLOU (I have seen this film 7 times), Keaton with ANNIE HALL, REDS, Bergen with 11 HARROW HOUSE, THE HUNTING PARTY and SOLDIER BLUE and Steenburgen with CROSS CREEK and DEAD OF WINTER.  Watching them on screen is the best thing about the film.  Unfortunately, they are unable to save this sorry feminine old farts comedy.

The film’s premise is simple enough with the script stretching it into a tired full length feature.   Four older women spend their lives attending a book club where they bond over the typical suggested literature.  Each member takes her turn to suggest a book.  One day, they end up reading Fifty Shades of Grey (with Christian Grey and his sexual frolics) and are turned on by the content.  Viewing it as a wake up call, they decide to expand their lives and chase pleasures that have eluded them. 

With four and not one character, the audiences has to sit through all four and not only one story as they sort out their lives. 

When the club first meets, it is a long drawn out affair of introductions.  One by one, they appear, each apparently trying to outdo each other in wardrobe and appearance.  The dialogue is obviously written by a team of comedy writers (though only mildly funny).  One liners and punch liners come out of the members’ mouths instead of authentic everyday dialogue.  

Later on in the film, the audience sees Keaton wearing all her ANNIE HALL outfits from male jacket, to loose tie to beret.  It is clear that the film pays more attention to wardrobe, the  mansions with their interior design and stuff that make the elders look good that more urgent matters like script and direction.  Choice of popular songs at appropriate parts of the film is ‘cute’ at best.

As the film progresses, it appears that this is a film that shows only one side of the American life – that of the wealthy.  All the characters are white and wealthy, with for example, Diane’s boyfriend, Mitchell the pilot (Andy Garcia) owning a mansion with his own private plane or Vivian’s Arthur (Don Johnson) rich enough to miss airline flights at a whim.  Even the supposedly middle class couple Carol (Steenburgen) and Bruce (POLTERGEIST’s Craig T. Nelson) has a house to die for.  An Asian is shown at one point in the film, but she is only the server of ice-cream sodas.

Of all the 4 stars, the most watchable and most amusing is Bergen playing the judge Sharon, prim and proper but trying to get a date on her dating site.  She is best known to the younger generation for her TV role in MURPHY BROWN though this one, in my opinion was the true beauty in her younger days.  Her match with Richard Dreyfuss (JAWS, THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ, AMERICAN GRAFFITI) is the one that brought the most laughs in the audience in the promo screening I attended.  Her other match up with Wallace Shawn falls flat.  The audience seems to love (though this has been done before) the segment with Bruce with a uncontrollable hard-on, the result of his wife spiking his beer with a Viagara.

The script underwrites certain characters, which is understandable as there are too many characters in the film.  Alicia Silverstone (CLUELESS) is largely wasted as Jill, one of Diane’s daughters who is not given much to do.

BOOK CLUB is merely an excuse to watch 4 stars come together.  If watching them is all that matters, the this film might be for you.  BOOK CLUB aims low as a glossy, standard senior product with nothing fresh to offer.  The film achieves its aim.


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1977 Movie Review: ANNIE HALL, 1977

Movie Reviews

Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Review by Eli Manning


Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the interesting Annie Hall.


First lines of film:
Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.</br

That is the overall theme of this movie and Woody Allen tells us about it straight up.

There’s been a lot written about this film and many of the film’s core ideas are in other people’s films because this is just one of those films! It triggered a great emotion in the world and is considered the Classic Comedy film of all-time.

Woody Allen is a master of the art of laughter and sadness. When he is in his own films he always plays a man who loves himself and hates himself at the same time. His self-love and confidence puts himself in great spots and situations until his self-hatred brings him down and out of those good situations. And that is the grammar of Woody Allen. These are the films he makes: then, now and in the future.

Allen plays moderately successful comedian Alvy Singer. He’s been married before and is seasoned in the world of relationships. Seasoned but really a failure in it. He falls for the woman Annie Hall, a young idealist with different core values than himself – played brilliantly by Diane Keaton (who picked up an Oscar for Best Actress). Annie Hall likes Alvy because he’s the type of guy that she can learn a lot from and has been in situations where she wants to be.

Right from the start it becomes a mentor/protege relationship and the madness of this situation is that Alvy can learn a whole lot more from Annie than vice/versa. But Alvy is too much into Alvy and his own love/hate of himself. It’s just too hard for him to really see or understand this.

Of course this is a comedy and it’s a very funny film. So funny in fact that I believe that someone who watches this film 100 years from now will laugh just as much as we do now and when they did in 1977 when it opened. It has universal appeal as we all want to find love but the trick is that you need to love yourself first in order to love someone else.

Emotionally most of us attach ourselves to Annie Hall because she carries this genuine kindness for herself and humanity. And we want her to get far away from Alvy because he’s a selfish jerk, even though we can’t help but like him. Avly (and Woody Allen) has charm and charm seems to go a long way in life.

A film everyone needs to watch and see. Some will hate it I understand because it’s just a film that hits too close to home for some people to really laugh at. Or they just hate quirky comedies. In my opinion it’s the best comedy of all-time.

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