God bless Candice Bergen. She may be the lone Oscar-less star of Book Club's quartet of acting queens but, with an irresistibly dry comic delivery and penchant for stealing scenes with remarkable ease, she manages to emerge something of an MVP.
That isn't to say Bergen runs away with the show - how could she, after all, with the comparably sparkling Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen sharing the screen? Book Club may be a glorified sitcom but it emerges a must-see for these four star turns alone.
No doubt, you've seen the previews and know what's coming - this foursome of fabulousness reads the notorious Fifty Shades of Grey as their latest book club selection. The sordid trilogy, as expected, will have an impact on their respective lives that opens their eyes and results in loads of laughs. Indeed, there may not be many surprises on the horizon in Book Club but that isn't say the proceedings aren't, for the most part, an absolute pleasure from start to finish.
Fonda's Vivian is the most colorful and carefree of the bunch, unabashedly enjoying the company of men with no strings attached - that is, until a beau from the past (Don Johnson) comes strolling into town wanting something more meaningful than a one-night fling. Keaton's Diane (could they not change the name?) remains uneasy about getting back into the dating game, having a year back lost her husband of 40 years. The dashing pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia, a romcom natural) enters her life and immediately begins courting her but Diane is slow to reciprocate.
Then, there's Bergen's Sharon, a distinguished federal judge who hasn't had romance on the brain in ages and whose ex (Ed Begley, Jr.) is now shacking up with a blonde bombshell about a third his age. Sharon makes the leap into online dating, where, among her matches, is the kind accountant George (Richard Dreyfuss). Finally, Steenburgen's Carol has been antsy for months over her stale marriage to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson). Reading Fifty Shades makes her more determined than ever to spice things up.
Among this sea of subplots, Bergen has the funniest moments and Keaton and Garcia have the sweetest. Fonda's a hoot, basically doing a slight variation on her turn from Grace and Frankie, but her scenes opposite Johnson lack the tenderness of the Keaton-Garcia ones. Steenburgen, I'm afraid, draws the short straw. Her dynamic opposite Nelson is a bland imitation of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in Hope Springs.
Writer/director Bill Holderman and co-writer Erin Simms lean heavily on their cast to do the heavy lifting - thankfully, they've been graced with an ensemble that's plenty game to lift the ordinary into the almost-extraordinary.
Book Club is certain to satisfy film buffs (like myself) who crave at least one Nancy Meyersesque picture a year.