Five years after its release, Book Club finally gets its sequel. Once again written and directed by Bill Holderman, Book Club: The Next Chapter reintroduces audiences to Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen), and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) as they rediscover their youth in scenic Italy.
The Next Chapter kicks off almost immediately from where Book Club left off. Vivian, the eternal wild child, has just gotten together with Arthur (Don Johnson), the one who got away, and Diane has moved in with her new flame Mitchell (Andy Garcia). After a brief vignette of the titular book club in lockdown where we learn that Sharon has retired from the judicial system and Carol has had to close her restaurant, the four women are finally reunited with the news that Vivian and Arthur have gotten engaged.
When the book they’re reading prompts them to look for signs of divine intervention, all four women pack their bags and touchdown in Rome for the bachelorette trip of a lifetime. Much like in its predecessor, these lifelong friends use their book of the month to inspire themselves to open up to new experiences and people, with Carol leading the charge through sheer optimism and positivity. As they romp across Italy and take in the art and culture, they encounter new and old friends, enjoy a cute wedding dress try-on montage, fall victim to swindlers, and drink a lot of prosecco – truly a European dream vacation.
Just like before, the chemistry between the film’s four leads is really delightful. All iconic actresses in their own right, Keaton, Bergen, Steenburgen, and Fonda are electric together. Their on-screen friendship feels very genuine, and it’s amazing to see a film focus solely on older women fostering and maintaining such close relationships.
Hollywood has often relegated older women to the sidelines, feeding moviegoers with the false idea that life stops once you hit 50, that older women are done once their children (should they have any) reach adulthood. With the exception of powerhouse actresses like Frances McDormand, scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, and even recently the renaissance of Emma Thompson, Hollywood generally seems to think older women aren’t good for much beyond roles as grumpy, frumpy, or senile background characters, which is why films like Book Club: The Next Chapter are crucial, despite how silly they may seem at a surface level.
Wholesome and healthy female friendships are not often seriously portrayed on screen. One only has to think about films like Bride Wars or Mean Girls where women are presented as friends only to spend the entire run time trying to knock the other down a peg. Book Club: The Next Chapter has the sole focus of showing not only older women continuing to live their lives, but older women with genuine affection for one another who support each other’s antics and choices.
Each woman is essential to the functionality of this group; filling the role of the cautious one (Diane), the nurturing one (Carol), the pragmatist (Sharon), and the free spirit (Vivian) not only allows for the jokes to land but each woman brings out something unique in the others, providing encouragement, balance, compassion, and guidance, a notion fully embraced and embodied by their frequently used “best friends, tough love” line.
Book Club: The Next Chapter is exactly what you’d expect it to be, filled with somewhat overused jokes, visual gags, and corny speeches, but in truth that’s what makes the film so endearing. Holderman seems to have an unapologetic love and appreciation for the films of the early naughts, and it’s refreshing to sit through a movie that doesn’t try to be anything but enjoyable. Take your mum, take your nan, pop a bottle, and enjoy what is honestly just a very sweet and fun movie ride.
Book Club: The Next Chapter is in cinemas now.