However, thanks to a predictable storyline and sometimes clichéd dialogue, the sequel may disappoint some fans. At the same time there are still elements that ensure the movie has some appeal.
Leading the way are the performances of its four stars – Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen.
An exploration of all that’s memorable about an Italian sojourn including the scenery, ambience and food ensures the movie looks good.
Book Club: The Next Chapter starts with an update on what the four women have been doing during the Covid lockdown including continuing their book club via Zoom.
Vivian (Jane Fonda) has spent the pandemic with her long-lost boyfriend Arthur (Don Johnson), with whom she reconnected in the first Book Club. Diane (Diane Keaton) is living in New Mexico with pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia) whom she also met in the previous instalment.
Sharon (Candice Bergen) has retired as a judge while Carol (Mary Steenburgen) was forced to close her restaurant and has been looking after her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), who is recovering from a heart attack.
On the women’s first face to face get-together post Covid, Vivian announces she and Arthur are to marry. On hearing the news and after referencing the theme of their most recent book club read, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Carol suggests the group host Vivian’s bridal shower in Italy. The four were due to take the trip in their younger days but it never happened.
While initially the other three aren’t as keen on the idea as Carol, some persuasion from their partners and in Sharon’s case fate, result in the trip going ahead.
Needless to say the women find themselves in numerous challenging situations, including the theft of their luggage, a car breakdown at an inopportune time and an overnight stay in jail.
There’s also plenty of eating and drinking and sightseeing in some of Italy’s best known tourist regions.
In keeping with Sharon’s rediscovery of the joys of sex as explored in the first Book Club there’s a romantic liaison with Ousmane (Hugh Quarshie), a retired professor of philosophy. She also has several run-ins with the local police chief (Giancarlo Giannini).
Carol re-connects with one of her first loves chef Gianni (Vincent Riotta) while Vivian spends much of the trip debating if she really wants to get married.
It’s the discussions between the four women about ageing and doing what’s right for each of them which provide the most memorable moments of Book Club: The Next Chapter.
And while some of the jokes fall flat it’s a delight to watch Bergen, who delivers some of the funniest quips, in action. At the same time Fonda, Keaton and Steenburgen are all given chances to show why they have long been lauded for their acting and on-screen presence. Their performances perfectly illustrate the underlying theme of Book Club: The Next Chapter – age is no barrier to living life to the fullest.
Book Club: The Next Chapter opens in cinemas around Australia on May 11.
*Photo credit: Riccardo Ghilardi / © 2023 FIFTH SEASON, LLC
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