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Book Club (2018)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/28/2018
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/28/2018
The #MeToo and #Time'sUp movement brought international attention to the struggles of women in Hollywood. However, actresses have been dealing with issues for years when it comes to finding roles which weren't demeaning, especially after they reached a certain age. Sure the Meryl Streeps and Judi Denchs of the world continue to find work, but for a lot of women over the age of 40, quality jobs can be few and far between. So, it's nice to see a movie deliver not one, but four leading roles to mature actresses, it's a breath of fresh air. But, is this Book Club worth joining?
Book Club focuses on four ladies who have been friends for decades, a friendship which was cemented when they began to discuss books. Diane (Diane Keaton) is a recent widow who is a chef. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a judge who is divorced. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), but their marriage has grown cold. Vivian (Jane Fonda) owns a hotel and is permanently single. However, when she runs into Arthur (Don Johnson), old feelings stir. Vivian brings Fifty Shades of Grey to book club, a decision which is met with protests at first. However, once the ladies begin to read the book, they all decide that they need a new spark in their love lives. Diane meets an airline pilot (Andy Garcia), while Sharon decides to try on-line dating. But, can Carol find a new spark with Bruce?
First of all, allow me to say that I'm not in the target audience for Book Club. However, having said that, a good movie is a good movie and a quality film will always transcend the boundaries of demographic. However, this isn't a good movie. This movie is clearly aimed at viewers who want no suspense, surprises, or true drama in their movies. If someone in the audience was surprised by any of the "twists" which occur in the last act, then congratulations on seeing your first movie. The characters are very shallow and other than their professions and basic personality qualities, we learn very little about them. And, for the record, any movie that uses reading Fifty Shades of Grey as a springboard is clearly not going to be very deep. (For the record, my wife is closer to the target audience than I am, and she walked out after 20 minutes.)
So the movie is shallow, is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but the level of banality on display here should be insulting to everyone involved. Keaton, Fonda, Steenburgen, and Bergen boast 13 Oscar nominations and 4 wins between them, and each has honed a strong career in entertainment. And, given the heavy material which they have been involved with over the years, it's understandable that they would want to do something light. But, Book Club never rises above Lifetime movie territory, as it trots out one tired idea after another. The romance storylines don't introduce anything which we haven't seen in other movies, and the jokes often fall flat. Although, it's interesting to note that the film attempts to milk the most laughs out of a situation which would be more at home on Jackass.
The audience should feel insulted as well. Despite the fact that the movie was a minor hit, I hope that some who went to see Book Club said, "This is what they think I want to see." Older women should certainly see themselves reflected on the screen, but it should be in something with more depth and intelligence. It's surprising that Fonda would agree to appear in something like this, given her history of speaking out on political topics. Book Club is one of those movies which isn't bad in the sense that it's competently made, but it is bad in the sense that I feel that I need to look for it when I'm driving because it's so pedestrian.
Book Club doesn't do any favors to...well...book clubs on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, as the film is filled with lively tones, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth works very well, and the level of detail is notable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dramedy, we don't get an abundance of impressive effects here. There is a crowd scene in the third act which produces some mild surround-sound effects. The film's score fills the speakers and offers some moderate bass in some sections.
The Book Club Blu-ray Disc contains a small assortment of extra features. "It All Started With a Book" (11 minutes) focuses on Writer Erin Simms and Director/Writer Bill Holderman, who discuss the origin of the idea and how the characters are based on real-life people. From there, they talk about how the project came together. "Casting Book Club" (14 minutes) features comments from the actors, as Simms and Holderman talk about how each actor fit the script. "Location, Location, Location" (10 minutes) looks at the design of the sets and the overall look of the movie, as well as the California aesthetic which permeates the film. "A New Chapter" (9 minutes) takes on the themes of the movie, as the cast and creative team talk about how the movie addresses aging and romance. "Living in the Moment" (4 minutes) takes us into the studio as Katherine McPhee records a song for the film. The Disc contains thirteen DELETED SCENES (and alternate takes) which run about 11 minutes. All of these are brief, and while there are no new characters or subplots introduced here, there are some scenes here which are not in the film at all.
Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long