“Book Club” Unites Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen And Mary Steenburgen—And Proves Actresses Can Still Lead Movies Past 60

by Courtney Bissonette

If there is one person responsible for bridging the gap between younger audiences and successful stories about older women, it is Jane Fonda. In her latest film, Book Club—directed by Bill HoldermanFonda plays a woman who is worried about her friend’s sex lives coming to a dead end, so she decides to do something about it: introduce 50 Shades of Grey to her book club. That book club is made up of a group of lifelong friends, played by powerhouses Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. If Vivian (Fonda) brings the book, you can count on Diane (Keaton) to bring the laughs, Carol (Steenburgen) to bring the heart, and Sharon (Bergen) to bring the sass. Despite the actress’ big names, none of them overshadow the others’ star power—a true testament to friendship and female empowerment both on- and offscreen.

Book Club successfully delivers a storyline about friendship between older women that we haven’t seen since, dare I say it, Golden Girls. The term “women of a certain age” may be overused and outdated, but it’s not news that Hollywood just doesn’t provide roles for older women. These actresses—who have four Oscars and six Emmys between them—have, for the past 15-20 years, been reduced to playing “middle-aged mother” roles in almost every movie they’ve appeared in. Arguably—with the exception of Diane Keaton in Something’s Got to Give—none of these four actresses has been the lead in any big movies since their 40s. Book Club puts Hollywood to shame for that.

While the plotline and trailer for this film might make it seem like a zany, Nancy Meyers-esque rom-com, the movie is a lot of fun and mostly avoids the clichéd traps that female-driven films often fall into. The four actresses deliver their lines so well that it seems criminal that we had to wait til 2018 to see this sort of thing happen. 

While the script…well, could have been punched up, at the heart of it, it’s about friendship and has a lot of nods to feminism baked in (Bergen’s character is a federal judge with a cat named Ginsburg, after Ruth Bader Ginsburg). The stars’ delivery and timing is so good, it makes me overlooks the minimal criticism I have of the script. The cheese is kept to a minimum and the corn is held entirely. There may be one or three predictable moments, but they are mostly used as an unavoidable catalyst to move the plotline along. With any luck, this will finally get the ball rolling on films about older women.

In their 60s (Steenburgen), 70s (Keaton and Bergen), and 80s (Fonda), these actresses are still vital, sexy as all get-out, and hilarious. Their delivery makes you realize how much bad acting we’ve been putting up with just because the it’s coming out of a young face. It’s just exciting to see these women together. Book Club proves how criminally underused great older actresses are. The bottom line is the movie is funny, and these women can act—and should be able to act more often. 5/5

top photo: Book Club

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