Review by Dan Skip Allen
Jane Fonda has been one of the most prolific actors this year. She started in February with the football-themed comedy 80 for Brady, where she co-starred with Sally Field, Rita Moreno, and Lily Tomlin. She re-teamed with Tomlin, her long-time friend and co-star on Grace and Frankie in Moving On, a two-hander. Now, she tops off her year with the sequel to the popular 2018 film Book Club — Book Club: The Next Chapter — again teaming with Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenbergen, and writer-director Bill Holderman.
After the last film, the four ladies have been doing their annual book club meeting on Zoom. Once the COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, they decide to finally get back together in person to discuss The Alchemist. After a few last-minute developments create an air of opportunity, the four women decide to go to Italy to go on one last adventure together. Little did they know what strange twists and turns their Italian adventure would have.
With these types of films, there must be an engaging storyline for each of the main characters. They all have to have interesting arcs, and this movie does that for them all. Writer-director Bill Holderman and co-writer Erin Simms know their characters and the audience watching the film. He knows how to make plot points that fit each of them regarding retirement, marrying at an older age, or — in a few cases — committing to love later in life. All the character arcs and the overall adventure were done expertly.
The movie had some interesting things that I enjoyed. One of those was the soundtrack. In a cool way, the filmmaker chose popular songs like "Gloria," "Ciao Ciao," and "Mambo." There are just a few hits performed in this movie. These songs brought me back in time and helped me engage in the movie and the stories of the four main characters.
The second thing that was fantastic about the film was the cinematography. These four women traveled all over Italy, from Rome to Venice to Tuscany. They visited all the sites and drove from Rome to Venice, and that was an amazing road trip. The landscapes were breathtaking, and it just made me want to go to Italy badly. What a beautiful country.
With these four seasoned actresses, you know you will have some great banter. The dialogue between them is priceless. The comedic stuff kept me laughing, especially a lot of the old folks' jokes and humor. This movie is similar in many ways to 80 for Brady, even beyond their Fonda connection.
Book Club: The Next Chapter is a funny senior citizen journey. These four ladies have great banter and chemistry with each other. Each of their storylines within the context of the movie are all interesting and have merit. With four established actresses, you know you're going to get great work. Fonda is having a moment right now with her third film of the year so far. The music and cinematography are both excellent, and Bill Holdermann, the writer/director, does a great job giving each lady their own arc to shine in. This will definitely attract an older audience, similar to 80 for Brady.
Book Club: The Next Chapter hits theaters on May 12.