“Book Club” – From Between the Covers and Up on the Silver Screen

In a clever bit of brand extension, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the book chosen by a quartet of ladies of a certain age. No doubt Universal Pictures and Vintage Books was pleased when Paramount Pictures sought permission to put that potboiler as the Maguffin in the film “Book Club.”

The stellar quartet of Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen form the eponymous group. Each character has their own love – hate relationship with the book, which forms the basis for their relationship with men. One is a widow, not ready to get back in the dating game. Another seems prudish about the book, at least when not alone. Lack of intimacy, pressures from adult children, aging and mating offer mostly humorous and occasionally poignant observations.

The film looks lovely, certainly most book club members watching the film will find these members’ lifestyles quite aspirational. All four enjoy lives a understated elegance; one is a hotelier, another is a judge, and none probably does her own laundry.

The men in the mix are generally good hearted, played admirably by the likes of Don Johnson, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss and Andy Garcia. Indeed, it is rare when the viewer sees all the leads (in this case eight actors) as actors seemingly playing themselves. This is certainly not any of the actors’ brightest shining moment on-screen, but the film is a pleasant way to see the veteran cast inhabit the characters with ease.

It is an impressive directorial debut for Bill Holderman.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.