The comedic vehicle Book Club is best described as the perfect example of counter programming for which movie studios strive during the summer movie season. For those seeking something that isn’t based on a comic book and isn’t a sequel/prequel, this is a film that’s going to look awfully appealing. Mind you, the takeaway here isn’t much and the whole endeavor is about as deep and profound as a glass of water that’s half full but that’s okay. Audiences seeking this one out will likely be looking to just have a good time and that’s exactly what they’ll get. It may not hold the secrets of the universe but Book Club is perfectly serviceable in a non-think sort of way.

The film gets its title from the Book Club that four lifelong friends formed many decades ago. After all these years the four ladies still have their regular get-togethers, where they share both books and the ups and downs in their lives. Vivian (Jane Fonda) is an entrepreneur who prefers her romances with no strings attached. Diane (Diane Keaton) is recently widowed after a supposedly blissful marriage that lasted forty years while Carol’s (Mary Steenburgen) marriage has hit a dull stretch after 35 years. Rounding out the group is Sharon (Candice Bergen), who’s still licking the wounds of her divorce that transpired some time ago. When they make the decision to make Fifty Shades of Grey their book of the moment the wheels are set in motion for big change in the lives of the characters.

Book Club is the feature directorial debut for Bill Holderman, whose only previous credit is the TV show American Epic. Since Holderman (who also serves as co-writer) has a background in television that may explain why the film falls into formulaic territory from time to time. This is the kind of film that hits the marks exactly when you expect it to and you can almost set a stopwatch to the moments when plot complications will ensue.

As formulaic as it feels from time to time, Book Club works as well as it does by coasting along on the talents of its cast. In addition to the four lead actresses (Editor’s note: between the four, there are four Oscars and numerous nominations, and Bergen has five Emmys for Murphy Brown) there are also supporting turns from such seasoned pros* as Ed Begley Jr., Richard Dreyfus, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Andy Garcia and Wallace Shawn (in a suspiciously small role). Nineties sensation Alicia Silverstone also turns up as Diane Keaton’s daughter in the film and it’s refreshing to see her once again as well. Book Club may be forgotten as soon as you leave the theater but it’s a joy to watch this cast at work. That cast will go a long way in glossing over the flaws of a film that has an all too familiar ring from time to time.

Image: Keaton, Fonda, Bergen & Steenburgen in Book Club

Book Club opens today in Hickory and all around the area.

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