Book Club: The Next Chapter

I am angry. Cinemas are really struggling to get bums on seats at the moment. Most of the films in the top ten charts are making less than £100,000, and yet, instead of the film companies trying their best to put out their finest products, we are delivered utter tripe such as Book Club: The Next Chapter. The sequel to the forgotten 2018 Book Club (only remembered because of this sequel) is a film starring four awarding-winning actresses in a woefully unfunny, bland and tired comedy that even the Hallmark Channel might struggle to release. Yet the screening of four people (including myself) is not proof that this will save cinema.

Having survived lockdown by continuing their weekly book club meetings on Zoom, the four friends, Diane, Vivian, Sharon and Carol, decide to take a trip to Italy to celebrate Vivian’s upcoming wedding. Once there, their adventures include having their luggage stolen, meeting old flames and making new while struggling with their own issues in life.

Normally, at this point, I would try to find some good points but, trust me, there aren’t any. Directed by the original director and co-writer Bill Holderman, this doesn’t have a moment you have never seen before. As with most sequels of this kind, what do you do next when you have a group of characters who have survived their own home life? You put them on a plane and send them on holiday to see what trouble they can get to somewhere else. Yet with all these movies, there is an unrealistic feel to them.

Let’s start with the locations. This has plenty of scenic shots you have seen hundreds of times in countless other films, all of which add time to an already bloated 107 mins. The streets of these popular tourist attractions seem almost empty compared to reality. (I wish I could have wandered the banks of Venice without dodging the countless tourists and passengers of obscene ocean liners!) These ladies must have cast iron stomachs as they manage to polish off countless glasses of wine without once slurring their words, let alone vomiting from the mass consumption.

Then there are the endless crude and unsubtle sexual gags, all seeming dated and all falling flat on their faces. The last time I saw anyone looking at naked sculptures and commenting about the size of the figurines’ privates, they were little kids who sniggered at the nakedness. You wouldn’t expect it of mature ladies. Then we must remember that they found a lease of life in their previous movie when they read Fifty Shades of Grey!

We also mustn’t forget the scenes in which the background music tells us exactly what is going to happen at this moment, so if there is a deep and meaningful speech, we get a mournful tune, or if there is a moment of comedy, then the music is chirpy and upbeat. Yuck!

The most annoying thing about this film is that it has a cast that most directors would die to have. Diane Keaton is a great actress who is reduced to playing a character with her own name (she might find it hard to recognise any other name but her own) who is made to wear the most hideous spotted dress because it’s supposed to represent her character. This woman is still dressed like she’s in Annie Hall! Jane Fonda, one of America’s finest actresses for many years, is now popping up in these light-weight comedies as she clings to her youth. Candice Bergen, as a retired judge, gets the most biting one-liners, but none really are worth the effort, while Mary Steenbergen plays the mousey worrier who, for some reason, during the lockdown, learnt the accordion? I can only think they decided to return because they got a free trip to Italy. It certainly wasn’t for characters that would stretch their acting chops.

Book Club: The Next Chapter is a waste of actresses who should be going for better films than this, and it’s a waste of cinema screens that could be putting on classic movies or better-produced films. A dire film that just shows you how desperate Hollywood is. Don’t avoid going to the cinema but just don’t go and see this.

1 out of 5

Director: Bill Holderman

Starring: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenbergen, Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Giancarlo Giannini, Hugh Quarshire.

Written by: (based on the characters created) Bill Holderman and Erin Simms

Running Time: 107 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 12th May 2023


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