BOOK CLUB — Review by Susan Granger

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Because advertising and trailers can be deceptive, part of a movie critic’s job is to steer audiences to films they may enjoy. This poignant rom-com is directly aimed at older adults – and the matinee audience with whom I viewed it burst into spontaneous applause at the conclusion. In suburban Santa Monica, four lifelong friends meet regularly to sip wine, nibble canapes and discuss their lives as they relate to the chosen book they’re all reading. Years ago, they began with Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying,” and now they’re into the purple prose of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Capturing some of the fun of “The First Wives Club,” each woman represents a particular stage of romantic life: Jane Fonda’s sexy, vivacious Vivien is a wealthy, workaholic hotelier who has always avoided emotional commitment – until, suddenly, old flame Arthur (Don Johnson) tracks her down, still calling her “Slim.” Candice Bergen’s Sharon is an acerbic federal judge who hasn’t had a relationship since her divorce 18 years ago. But now that her ‘ex’ (Ed Begley) has a decades-younger fiancée (Mircea Monroe), she’s reluctantly risking dinner with Internet dates (Richard Dreyfuss, Wallace Shawn). Recently widowed after 40 years of marriage, Diane Keaton’s skittish Diane is fending off grown ‘helicopter’ daughters (Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton) who want her to move near them in Scottsdale, Arizona. On a plane, she meets Mitchell (Andy Garcia), a suave pilot who asks her out. And Mary Steenburgen’s Carol is a successful chef/restauranteur whose once-sparky marriage to recently retired Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) has recently, inexplicably gone

Working from a naughty-but-nice screenplay he wrote with Erin Simms, director Bill Holderman uses the book as a device to interweave their stories, devising nostalgic moments: Keaton revives her androgynous “Annie Hall” wardrobe. Steenburgen does a “Melvin and Howard” tap dance routine. Fonda wears thigh-high “Klute” boots. And Don Johnson’s daughter, Dakota, played the “Fifty Shades” heroine.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Book Club” is a sweetly saucy, senior 7, a feel-good chick-flick.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.