Plot: What’s it about?
I’m willing to bet that it’s a hard sell to have a film with four actresses in their 70’s and 80’s. Or maybe it’s not. Last time I checked I wasn’t the head of a major Hollywood studio. What I do know is that the four actresses who headline this film are very talented and capable. We’ve got four Oscars between them (Keaton and Steenburgen have one and Fonda has two) and over a century of experience in front of the camera. 2018’s Book Club set the stage and now, half a decade later, we’ve got a sequel. Is that a good or bad thing? While the original was more of an homage to Fifty Shades of Grey, this one tips its cap to the country of Italy. Yes, the ladies are heading to Europe! Odds are that if you were a fan of the first, this one is more of the same. Our bags are packed, let’s get going.
The same quartet is back with lifelong best friends Vivian (Jane Fonda), Diane (Diane Keaton), Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Sharon (Candice Bergen) who have come out of Covid lockdown and decide to take a flight across the pond to Italy. As we know, each of the four have their own individual story arc: Vivian is engaged to Arthur (Don Johnson), Diane isn’t engaged to longtime beau Mitchell (Andy Garcia), Carol worries about her husband, Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) after his heart attack and Sharon meets up with Ousmane (Hugh Quarshie) for a little fling. There really isn’t an overarching plot other than focusing on the four women and their respective male counterparts. Oh and they’re in Italy. Did I already mention that?
On the plus side, we’ve got four screen legends appearing in a film together. But it’s a bit sad that they have to “lower” themselves for a film like this with canned, predictable dialogue like it came out of a sit com. I have no idea why a second film was needed or why these ladies agreed to do it. I have to imagine none of them need (or want) any more money, they’ve been well established in the industry for decades but maybe the “we’re getting the band back together” thing resonated with them. It’s a harmless, predictable and in a few scenes – fun film, but I can only see this playing to a certain demographic. Likely you’ll already know if this is for you or not long before you pop the disc in the player.
Video: How’s it look?
Botox is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? We’ve got four actresses who, in their day, were quite stunning to look at. And, in a way, they still are. But Book Club: The Next Chapter is more about the backdrop of Italy, so if you’re looking for some scenic shots and say to yourself “Oh, I’d love to go there…” this is love letter to the country. The 1.85:1 AVC HD encode does a fine job with the visuals and even though most of the stars aren’t the usual 20 and 30-somethings we’re used to seeing – still look good. Colorful outfits abound, flesh tones look warm and natural and so forth. There’s a lot that I didn’t like about the film, but visually-speaking it does deliver.
Audio: How’s it sound?
It’s unlikely that anyone out there will expect something explosive when the DTS HD Master Audio mix is fired up. No, we get a lot of chatty dialogue along with some playful ambiance. Surrounds are, by and large, unused and instead we get a front heavy mix. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad in the least, it’s just not a movie (or genre) that needs (or wants) to make use of all available channels. Vocals are pure and crisp, as expected. It delivers what it’s supposed to.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Book Club: Back in Session – The typical “Making of…” featurette with plenty of quips from the cast and crew, “how excited (insert name here) I was to work on this project” and so on. You know the drill.
- Still Stylish – A focus on the main four characters and how aging gracefully is where it’s at.
- The Women in Italy – If you didn’t get enough of Italy in the film, this featurette gives you a little more for your buck.
The Bottom Line
This wasn’t a total waste of time, it’s just contrived. I’m sure there’s an audience out there (though it’s a few decades older than me) for this and I suppose if the first film was up your alley – this is more of the same. Universal’s disc, as expected, delivers high quality audio and video but the extras are a bit sparse.