Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 09, 2018

Looking for a better Book Club to join at the movies

When books and movies are mixed together, it can be an entertaining flavor combination, like peanut butter and chocolate.

However, when not blended together well or with the wrong set of ingredients, the whole thing can fall apart faster than a rushed to the oven souffle.

That latter foodie metaphor is the feeling that I got from watching the first trailer for the movie Book Club, due out this spring. It stars a formidable quartet of actresses(Jane Fonda,Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen) who play a group of long time friends going through various midlife issues who also form a book club.

As a way to "liven things up", Fonda's character decides that they all need to read Fifty Shades of Grey and judging by the obvious open mouthed reaction shots in this trailer, the book magically awakes their collectively dormant sex drives. I'm far from being a prude but I find it hard to believe that these ladies have no idea about what's in that particular novel.

 The Fifty Shades trio of books have been part of the cultural conversation for several years now and the movie version has already aired on cable, both basic and subscription(with the final film adaptation arriving in theaters not so long ago). Already my suspension of disbelief has snapped within the first minute of this teaser:

Maybe it's just me but the faux pearl clutching is annoying yet only the cherry on top of my intelligence insulted sundae here. With Fonda doing a spray-cheesy version of Blanche from Golden Girls that sticks Bergen into a dour Dorothy position to Keaton and Steenburgen both battling it out to be the off color Rose of the group, the comedy goes downhill fast at a sorry sitcom speed.

The most aggravating is the choice of book; Fifty Shades is a lazy pick from writers who I suspect haven't read that series and weren't creative enough to make up a sexy novel that peaked the interests of their characters. Not to mention that it's a book that misrepresents the romance genre along with the erotic novel sub genre. Plus, I am sick of the whole "women reading dirty books" stereotype combined with the "older women feeling sexy" mockery.

I'm also pretty sure that none of the women in this movie have a real conversation about the book's contents and in my opinion, if you call a movie Book Club, I expect to have some scenes where they talk about the book at a meeting! And yes, you can do that with a sense of humor. From what I'm seeing in this trailer, there are SNL skits with better jokes and more depth than this movie has to offer:

Part of the problem here is that this is an original screenplay(written by people who probably think that a book club is just an excuse to drink wine and gossip) rather than based on an actual book.

There are plenty of good novels with a book club theme( even a few with a "naughty books" focus) ripe for adaptation out there. One that was made back in 2007 is still a favorite of mine, The Jane Austen Book Club.

Based on Karen Joy Fowler's book, this tale of five women and one man who explore the works of Jane Austen is everything that Book Club appears not to be. A well nuanced story with fully developed characters that has humor and heart mixed in at the right spots, plus plenty of book discussion scenes.

Some might think that Jane Austen in the title means low key romance and mild plot points but they would be so wrong. Adultery, divorce,betrayal and a couple of May/December romances(one a possible student-teacher hook-up) are part and parcel of this smartly mature film.

It also boasts a respectable cast of actresses, from Kathy Baker to Emily Blunt,plus Maria Bello and Lynn Redgrave(in a small yet pivotal role). In fact, this movie gives both the male and female characters here a good amount of emotional development,something you don't often in most movies of any genre. A special bonus is that director Robin Swicord also adapted the screenplay, making this book truly come to life onscreen with such special care:

No doubt, some would tell me "Oh, lighten up! Book Club is just supposed to be a fun movie, a girl's night out kind of thing. Plus, look at all of those great actresses together in one film!"

Fun is fine but not when it's being condescending and that is the vibe that the trailer is giving me here. Maybe the entire film is different from what is showcased in this trailer but I highly doubt it.

Also, given the credentials of the leading ladies involved, I would prefer a project that made the best of their talents instead of provide drawing power for a script that has one of them blurt out things like "Do you want to be spanked?' and "Do you want to tie me up?" at off putting moments. Also, having a character be a respected judge who can't shut off the sexy online ads at  her work computer in front of a younger assistant is so face palm worthy.

Fortunately, there is a better book club movie due to come out later in the year and it happens to be based on a very good book. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society will star Lily James as a writer in post-WWII London who seeks out the reading group of the title. That bunch of readers held up each other's spirits during their island's occupation by enemy forces and protected one another as best they could.

If you want to check out Book Club when it comes out in May, I hope you have a good time at the movies. As for me, I'd rather wait and buy a ticket to Guernsey for a better take on book clubs and good hearted readers on film:

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