BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER – Review by Susan Granger
When Hollywood writers go on strike, it emphasizes our awareness of how pivotal these storytellers are to the movie-making process. And – in the case of Book Club: The Next Chapter – lazy screenwriting undercuts the best intentions of a quartet of highly competent actresses who have – collectively – earned four Oscars, six Emmys and 13 Golden Globes.
This sequel to the 2018 Book Club comedy reunites Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen as lifelong friends who decide to celebrate the end of their zoom calls during the pandemic quarantine with a fun-filled trip to Tuscany.
“The travel ban has lifted! Let’s go to Italy.”
Chic, commitment-adverse hotelier Vivian (Fonda) has impetuously become engaged to her old flame, Arthur (Don Johnson), so the jaunt turns into an extravagant bachelorette party.
Having shuttered her restaurant, Chef Carol (Steenburgen) is worried about her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) who recently suffered a heart attack. Still toting around the ashes of her dead husband, widowed Diane (Keaton) is now living with airline pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia). And slyly satiric retired federal judge Sharon (Bergen) is still playing the field.
Mishaps in their wacky Italian adventure includes lost luggage, a flat tire, even a night in jail – after an extended shopping session in an opulent bridal salon.
Yet it’s not all Prosecco and gelato as they wine and dine their way through Rome and Venice with cinematographer Andrew Dunn capturing the lushly tantalizing travelogue.
Problem is: the sappy, stilted screenplay that’s been crafted by director/producer Bill Holderman and producer Erin Simms. These talented sightseers – along with flirtatious Giancarlo Giannini – deserve better than this briefly anecdotal fluff, filled with clichéd PG-13 double entendres.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Book Club: The Next Chapter is a flighty, frenetic, fumbling 4, playing in theaters.