Book Club: The Next Chapter

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Book Club: The Next Chapter
dir Bill Holderman
scr-prd Erin Simms, Bill Holderman
with Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Craig T Nelson, Giancarlo Giannini, Hugh Quarshie, Vincent Riotta, Adriano De Pasquale, Francesco Serpico
release US/UK 12.May.23
23/US Focus 1h47

garcia johnson nelson
See also:
Book Club 2018

Is it streaming?

steenburgenm bergen, keaton and fonda
Frankly, the 2018 comedy left us with extremely low expectations, but this sequel is much more strongly written, including sparky humour, warm character-based drama and, yes, goofy silliness that prevents taking it remotely seriously. Which makes it much more enjoyable to spend time with this high-powered cast in gorgeous locations. And there's just enough under the surface to make us think that the film has something important to say.
After pandemic lockdowns lift, Vivian (Fonda) is newly engaged to Arthur (Johnson) and travels from New York to Los Angeles to reunite with her three best pals. Diane is happily partnered with Mitchell (Garcia), Sharon (Bergen) has retired as a judge and still enjoys being single, and Carol (Steenburgen) is nursing her husband (Nelson) after a heart attack. On a whim, they decide to finally take their long-planned trip to Italy, spinning it into a bachelorette shebang for Vivian. Adventures ensue in Rome and Venice, en route to a fabulous villa in the Tuscan countryside.
Leaning even more heavily into the geriatric Sex and the City vibe, this film still has casting issues in the odd age gaps between these supposed university pals. But this is nimbly sidestepped by lively performances from actors who would be charming whatever they were doing on-screen. And here, they're having a lot of fun reminding the audience that 70-somethings are still up for riotous antics, smutty innuendo and sexual shenanigans. So the movie's message is that expectations need to be crushed, and life is for living to the fullest.

These veteran performers are experts at riding the story's wild detours through corny slapstick, earnest drama and sudsy romance. Each star protagonist gets her own plot thread in which she determines her own fate, and the various men opposite them (plus locals nicely played by Quarshie, Riotta and Giannini as an oddly omnipresent police chief) are mildly more detailed than last time. Thankfully, the script gives everyone just enough zippy dialog to keep the audience amused even when things get thoroughly ridiculous.

Enjoyable elements pad out each scene, including fashion, food and of course glorious locations populated by characters who are stinking rich. And the plot consists of a series of nutty diversions that continually send these women in directions they weren't planning to go. But this is the script's central idea, as it reminds us not to give in to whatever seems preordained and perhaps hopeless. In other words, don't say, "What can I do?" Do something brave and unexpected.

cert 12 themes, language 3.May.23

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S

send your review to Shadows... Book Club: The Next Chapter Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall