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MOVIE REVIEW

Book Club

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for sex-related material throughout, and for language.

Reviewed by: Francisco Gomez Jr.
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
2018
USA Release:
May 18, 2018 (wide release)
Copyright, Paramount Pictures Corporation click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Paramount Pictures Corporation
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures Corporation

People’s search for Earthly happiness and true joy is ultimately futile without a right relationship with our Creator

What is SEXUAL IMMORALITY? Answer

SEXUAL LUST—Why does God strongly warn us about it? Answer

PURITY—Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

My boyfriend wants to have sex. I don’t want to lose him. What should I do? Answer

TEMPTATIONS—How can I deal with temptations? Answer

CONSEQUENCES—What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.
Featuring: Diane KeatonDiane
Jane Fonda … Vivian
Candice BergenSharon
Mary SteenburgenCarol
Andy GarciaMitchell
Craig T. NelsonBruce
Don Johnson … Arthur
Alicia SilverstoneJill
Richard DreyfussGeorge
Ed Begley Jr. … Tom
Wallace Shawn …
See all »
Director: Bill Holderman
Producer: Apartment Story
June Pictures
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Paramount Pictures Corporation. Trademark logo.
Paramount Pictures Corporation

a risqué and profane senior sex comedy

“Book Club” is the directorial debut of Bill Holderman and stars Diane Keaton(Diane), Jane Fonda (Vivian), Candice Bergen (Sharon), and Mary Steenburgen (Carol). Andrew Dunn works behind the camera to capture the story written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms.

A group of women decide to create a book club by reading the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. It opens up conversations and emotions that the ladies had not felt in a while. They find themselves in various situations as they are encouraged by each other and by their book talks. A lot of it includes sexual situations, but as the story progresses it becomes a story of the women finding themselves.

Let’s talk about the moviemaking quality before content for concern.

The performances by all the talented actresses is sympathetic and effective. They all brought their talent to the table. Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen in particular deliver the heart that keeps the film afloat.

However, the film seems to not know who their audience is, and that makes the comedy very uneven. They wanted to tread the line between mature and yet juvenile comedy… perhaps envisioning to capture the kid or quirk in all of us, but it misses the mark at times. There is a sense of dissonance between the performances of the actresses and the story the characters they play are trying to tell. This dissonance results in moments where the audience is expected to laugh, but the reasoning or motivations for the characters is sometimes questionable.

The best moments of the film are when you recognize Keaton being Keaton or Steenburgen being Steenburgen. Andrew Dunn who has a knack for romantic comedies delivers behind the camera. However, the story, performances, and technical aspects never seem to gel together—with a few exceptions throughout.

Content of Concern

Sex/Nudity: The movies biggest motif is the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey that introduced millions of women to sexual bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (S&M). This inspires most of the events of the film to revolve around the women’s dissatisfaction with the sexual part of their lives. The women talk about sex, act on desires, and focus a sizable amount of time on it. The risqué content is very heavy, repeated and worldly. Happiness and true joy are confused with sex. However, nudity is mild with only cleavage and mannequins.

Language/Profanity: The language is not overbearing but a couple of f-bombs warrant it a heavy rating for language. Profanity is surprisingly prevalent. With God’s name taken in vain numerous times throughout. The film also includes “sh*t”(5), “a*s” (2), and “h*ll” (5).

Drugs/Alcohol: The women do social drinking throughout the film.

Violence: Violence is very minor consisting of a couple of slaps on an arm and a slap intended for comedic purposes.

Lessons

The women have become disillusioned with their current state of life. They seek to find joy or exhilaration in their various endeavors. A lot of it includes sex and finding pleasure or inspiration from an erotic book. This is a feeling that perhaps many people share. Often times people try to find happiness in various endeavors, but never seem to find the right thing that fills the void.

Scripture tell us that chasing our human concept of happiness is often vanity, because our hearts are in the wrong place. The characters’ journey in the film reminded me of the journey of the “teacher” in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Throughout that book the “teacher” explains that he has searched for meaning in everything under the sun, and has found it all pointless. In the end, he concludes that only God can bring fulfillment, and poetically advises that we remember Him in all we do.

“Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well” –Ecclesiastes 12:6

He advises us to remember the Lord in our youth, as we can spend our lives serving him. When we grow older the things we used to cherish about ourselves such as beauty or riches may fade, and having a basis of fulfillment in the Lord—the only thing that is steady—is the only way to ensure that our joy is based on someone permanent. However, it is never too late to turn to the Lord, especially in times of need.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

The Lord does not promise Earthly happiness or success, as Ecclesiastes demonstrates; rather, the Lord offers to make us more like his son Christ to endure the hardships of life.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23

If you would like to know more about starting a relationship with Christ you can click here.

Summary

The cast brings their talent to the screen to try to counterbalance a sometimes awkward script. Bill Holderman’s debut as director is uneasy, but shows glimpses of potential that may be better developed in other genres. Andrew Dunn’s work is steady. The movie features ungodly sexual situations and profanity that will make true followers of Christ uncomfortable. Furthermore, the middle of the line quality may be enough for many to make their choice. As always, use spiritual discernment and prayer when deciding what to open your eyes and potentially your heart to.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

  • Sex: Very Heavy
  • Profane language: Very Heavy— • “Oh J*sus Chr*st” • “Oh J*sus” (2) • “J*sus” • “Oh my G*d” (15+) • “Oh G*d” (8) • “My G*d” (2) • “G*d” (6) • “G*d dang it” • “Holy sh*t” • • “h*ll” (5) • “d*mn
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Heavy— • f-words (2 or more)—“I don't make love, I f*ck” • “screwed” and “laid” (used sexually)—“The point is to get laid” • “p*ssy” (used as a double entendre—“Sounds like we have a lethargic p*ssy on our hands”) • sh*t (4) • “Show off the girls” (breasts) • a** (2)
  • Nudity: Mild— • cleavage • erotic book cover • mannequins
  • Violence: Minor
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative
NegativeI found the movie smutty and the women vulgar, undignified and shallow. While I know these were “character” parts, I am disappointed that four major actresses who have had wonderful careers would consent to play these roles. This movie was not for me. I found nothing about it redeeming, and I regret now that I did not research the movie before going to see it at the invitation of a friend. Furthermore, I am ashamed that I sat through the entire movie. My actions in staying did not honour God, and I regret that very much.

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” —Ephesians 5:4

“Therefore do not become partners with them, for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” —Ephesians 5:7-10

I am a child of God, and I want to please Him in everything that I do. I want to honour Him with my conduct.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Lena, age 68 (Canada)
Negative— How is it that 2 bad ideas that become 2 bad movies have such different results?

“Book Club,” the failure, feeds off “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the success in the most parasitic of ways. The former feels like a Mel Brooks spoof of “Vertigo” or “Frankenstein” without the jokes. The awful lines come at the expense of accomplished actresses who should have known better. In the past, a star would now be on the phone firing her agent if these kinds of grosses were being reported the first weekend after the film’s release. This embarrassment of a movie got not so much a thumbs down as a dismissive wave of the hand.

Really? A get-together to discuss “Fifty Shades of Grey?” That’s a discussion a lot of us had with people who were buying the book—at a discount—in the check-out cues at Costco. The ladies I talked to in those lines were a lot funnier than the stilted actresses of “Book Club.”

I never believed that the Grey franchise success was the result of sado-masochism going from taboo to mainstream. The sex was mechanical and had a ho-hum, homework quality about it. What appealed to the mostly female audience was the same thing that has appealed to readers of the romance genre (often called bodice-rippers, and whose sales never decline): men and women are different and have different roles, whether it be in the social realm or in the sexual-emotional realm. As debased as the Grey books and movies are, and even as tedious as the, I hope, final installment is, they never stray from the Genesis concept of male and female. Each was created for the other.

Temptation to sin is ever-present, but so is something within the anthropology of all of us that gives us an innate sense of right and wrong, and of truth.

“Book Club” is a lie, and just as bad, it’s not at all funny.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Jim O'Neill, age 65 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…The movie rides entirely on their charm, not so much on the strength of the writing or the jokes. …
Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News
…Really, it’s sad that the best Hollywood can come up with for so much seasoned talent is this stale shake-and-bake combining upscale-lifestyle porn with some tepid smirky humor. …
Dennis Harvey, Variety
…This feeble excuse for a comedy made me angry, and if you have any cherished cinematic feelings for the quartet of actresses at its center, you may feel angry, too. …
Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
…The whole thing feels like a late-night, dorm-room gab fest, except that the four women in question are well over 60, which is the gag. …
Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
…These supremely talented women are put through embarrassing paces by director and co-writer Bill Holderman. It’s meant to be a film about a reawakening of desire, and thus life. It turns out to be a wince-inducing mess. …
Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic
…A disgrace and a waste of the talents of Oscar winners Keaton, Fonda and Steenburgen and Emmy recipient Bergen. Obviously, the film is intended for an older audience. But is this anemic, feature-length sitcom really the best that Hollywood can do? …
Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…“Book Club” has a script that’s often so heavy on the corn—make that corn syrup—that it strains credulity and leaves you groaning. But then, darn it, suddenly it makes you tearful, with an unexpectedly genuine moment, or laugh out loud. It’s a credit to the cast, and the cast only. …
Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press
…The script is so lazy and outdated in its humor, it condescends to the same audience it purports to empower. …
Katie Rife, The A.V. Club
…Book Club isn’t a movie for me. It’s probably not a movie for you, either. Book Club was written for an audience that will find loaded references to 50 Shades of Grey delightfully risqué. …
Matthew Monagle, Austin Chronicle