Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
This is the sequel to the rom-com that screened five years ago and brought together four screen legends who portray lifelong friends, all Los Angeles seniors over seventy. COVID-19 has reduced their monthly book club get-togethers to Zoom sessions which are challenging to one of them— Diane (Diane Keaton), a widow who has established a close relationship with retired airline pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia). Vivian (Jane Fonda), a never-married hotel owner has reconnected with old boyfriend Arthur (Don Johnson). Retired federal judge Sharon (Candice Bergen) has been divorced for many years while chef Carol (Mary Steenbergen) has seen her successful LA restaurant shut down by the pandemic while her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) is recovering from a heart attack.
Finally, the friends have an in-person book club session for their current read, The Alchemist, a novel dealing with the age-old conflict between self-determination and fate—a theme that relentlessly pummels the script after the spinster Vivian shows her three friends an engagement ring from Arthur. The four decide to take a bachelorette trip to Italy beginning in Rome and ending in Tuscany. Of course, like the first film, obstacles crop up starting with the theft of their luggage during their train trip to Venice. Diane is particularly upset because her suitcase had an urn containing her husband’s ashes that she wanted to spread in a picturesque setting. Fortunately, Vivian has carried her recently purchased designer Italian wedding dress with her.
Venice becomes a romantic haven for Carol who reconnects briefly (and innocently) with old boyfriend and now-famous chef Gianni (Vincent Riotta) at his cooking school while Sharon gets it on in a stalled water taxi with Ousmane (Hugh Quarshie), a retired philosophy professor. The next day, the four women drive a rental car to Tuscany but, as fate would have it, a tire blows out and there is no spare in the trunk. Vivian freaks out, so to calm her down, Sharon confesses that her friends have secretly arranged a wedding ceremony with Arthur in a Tuscan resort the next morning. A police car stops for the women. When a hunky young policeman (Brice Martinet) gets out, Vivian tries to take his belt off thinking he is a male stripper her friends hired for the occasion. This move gets the all of the friends arrested for assaulting a police officer.
The next morning in their jail cell, the plans for Vivian’s and Arthur’s wedding appear to be in jeopardy as there is no transportation to get the bride-to-be to the venue in time. While they wait, moments of self-revelation are orchestrated by judge Sharon who convinces the other women to take charge of their own lives rather than leave everything up to destiny. In the true rom-com tradition, there will be a wedding ceremony, but perhaps not the one we were anticipating.
Writer/director Bill Holderman and co-writer Erin Simms have given this stellar cast another fairly predictable script that relies more on double entendres and one-liners than on memorable dialogue to get the occasional laughs. These film veterans still manage to get by with their strong ensemble chemistry. The three returning male characters are again relegated to relatively minor roles like those they received in the first film. Coming hard on the heels of 80 for Brady also starring Jane Fonda, wearing a much better looking wig, I found that Book Club: The Next Chapter had fewer laugh-out-loud moments, many coming when Italian film star Giancarlo Giannini as the irascible local police chief was onscreen. With an ending that seemed to be pasted in and less satisfying than that of its predecessor what saves this film from being entirely forgettable are the great makeovers given to these four elderly women by their respective makeup artists and that marvelous cinematography provided by Andrew Dunn that shows off the scenic backdrops of Rome, Venice, and Tuscany. In the end, this is a film that will appeal mostly to women “of a certain age”—and there are probably enough of them to make Book Club: The Next Chapter turn a profit.
Book Club: The Next Chapter is now available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and will be streaming exclusively on Peacock June 30.
- Rating Certificate: Apartment Story | Fifth Season | Makeready | Amazon Prime Video Peacock
- Rating Certificate: PG-13 (for some strong language and suggestive material)
- Country: USA
- Language: English | Italian
- Run Time: 108 Mins.
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Director: Bill Holderman
- Written By: Bill Holderman | Erin Simms
- Release Date: 12 May 2023