Directed by: Bill Holderman
Written by: Bill Holderman, Erin Simms
Starring: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson
Released: May 11, 2023
Grade: A-

Book Club: The Next Chapter

Book Club: The Next Chapter is the latest movie to make reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.  With folks asked to avoid interacting in person, the four long-time friends stayed in touch by discussing nominated books over Zoom (complete with technical difficulties).  Thankfully, those days are over and with Vivian (Fonda) now engaged, the wealthy quartet decide to make up for lost time by going on a makeshift bachelorette party/trip to Italy.  Regions to be visited include Rome, Venice and Tuscany.

The 2018 movie was far from perfect but it eked out over $100 million at the box-office and turned a tidy profit.  Writers Bill Holderman and Erin Simms were given the green light for a sequel and, as if taking on board some of the negative feedback, they’ve crafted a screenplay which improves on the original (it’s rare to say that).  Annoying family members have been omitted, the male leads have been pushed into the background, and the four brilliant lead actors spend more time together.

No topic is off limits as Diane, Vivian, Sharon and Carol talk about life, love, sex, wine, food and fate.  There are moments where they have deep philosophical discussions about old age and finding happiness… and there are moments where they act like immature teenagers and use double entendres to joke about the romantic misadventures.  Once again, it’s hard to pick a favourite out of Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen – they’re all so good!

It feels odd to be saying this but the lack of tension serves as a positive.  Instead of trying to create unnecessary villains and faux drama, it’s a film that understands what its audience wants and so the tone is kept light throughout.  This is a feel-good flick… and a good one at that.  Even when the four women are locked up in an Italian prison cell, it creates a humorous opportunity for them to open up and talk about their feelings for each other.

In terms of the finale, a few plot points are predictable but there are also a few surprises (I won’t give them away) which add to the film’s charm.  If you’re looking for another valid reason to buy a ticket, the music choices are great too.  Any film which finds a way to effectively use the Italian song “Gloria”, made famous in the United States by singer Laura Branigan in 1982, is a winner in my eyes. 

Book Club: The Next Chapter shows what can be achieved when placing intelligent, rational characters in a fun, entertaining adventure.