One thing about me is that I will be seated if a film comes out with old white ladies as the lead, especially when it’s a sequel to a movie I loved, as is the case with 2018’s Book Club. I saw Book Club during a three-movie summer weekend when Movie Pass was still a thing. It was the best movie out of those three, so going into Book Club: The Next Chapter, I knew I was in for a fun time.
The BCCU (Book Club Cinematic Universe) follows four lifelong friends, Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen), Diane (Diane Keaton), and Carol (Mary Steenburgen), who decide to form a book club. These women have been friends for fifty years and have gone through the highs and lows of life together – marriages (some failed, some successful), child-rearing, incredible careers, sickness, and death – they’re the kind of longstanding friendship that most women dream of having.
This second installment in the film series (because, yes, there are already talks of a third film) is an excellent follow-up to the first. It highlights the chemistry between these women who are titans of the screen, their careers spanning over four decades. Fonda, Bergen, Steenburgen, and Keaton had the time of their lives while filming. Their off-screen friendship shines through in every scene between the four. It’s effortless and a joy to watch. It’s so rare that films center on women over the age of 70 and that fact that just because they’re older, it doesn’t mean they have to stop living.
And boy, do these women live it up when they take a trip to Italy to celebrate Vivian’s engagement to Arthur (Don Johnson) because this is her first marriage, and of course, they must have a bachelorette for her. There’s wine, food, and art galore, just as it should be in Italy. There’s also sex on a houseboat for one of them because being older doesn’t mean that your sex life ceases to exist, even though society likes to pretend that once you’re past fifty, you shrivel up and become undesirable. Which we all know is inaccurate, and the film reminds us of that with several blow-job jokes, one of which being that they’re the real reason one of the characters needed a knee replacement.
They live life to the fullest while on the trip, even when faced with several bumps in the road, like having their bags stolen and having to purchase new belongings, and even getting arrested when Vivian mistakes a police officer for a stripper. Perhaps the film’s best scene is when they spend their night in a jail cell together and have a ‘tough love’ session.
Throughout the film, each woman has been coping with inner struggles (except for Sharon because she’s the only one who’s got it together – and they point it out during their tough love session). They take this ‘tough love’ session as an opportunity to tell one another how they’re standing in the way of their happiness by letting their internal struggle consume them. For Vivian, it’s whether or not she wants to get married. For Diane, it’s allowing herself to accept the love of Mitchell fully (Andy Garcia). She was finally taking that moving on after her husband’s death was okay. For Carol, it’s understanding that she can’t live in fear of her husband, Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), dying because it will only ruin their time together.
Films surrounding women’s stories – incredibly lighthearted ones like this- are often overlooked because, god forbid, women actually like one another and have fun together. While the film borders on cheesy at times, it’s silly and highlights the importance of healthy female friendships. With its outlandish mentions of following signs from the universe (which I personally eat that shit up) or how they pertain to the last book, they’ve read, The Alchemist. Can’t that be enough?