A review written by Hannah J Shaw with kind permission from Dendy Cinema, Canberra
Upon first glance, Book Club: The Next Chapter may be one of those films the younger generation tend to roll their eyes at – a group of ladies in their seventies, a trip to Italy, and the caption: ‘Slightly Scandalous, Totally Fabulous!’ However, as a woman in her mid-twenties, I would advise against skipping out on this comedic gem!
As the lights dimmed and my notebook opened, I enjoyed the very first opening scenes of the film. A montage shows the four protagonists: Carol, Diane, Sharon and Vivian who are all confined to their homes due to the Covid19 pandemic. It is definitely something that viewers can relate to. I heard a few laughs confirming the audience’s familiarity with some of the key reminders of our time in isolation, such as the boom of banana bread and the technical difficulties experienced with zoom calls.
However, this group of ladies are not deterred by the havoc happening around them and continue their famous monthly ‘Book Club’ online to tackle the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
The story surges forward when the barriers to the outside world lift and the group venture to reunite in person. Their reunion is beautiful, because it has been the longest time they’ve been apart in fifty years!
A celebration is due, and more so when Vivian announces she is getting married. As women in their seventies they laugh at the prospect, until they discover a diary of Carol’s that details their university days. In this diary lies their original plan for a trip to Italy together – a trip that never went ahead after Diane became pregnant and the group refused to go without her.
Following the original plan sketched out in Carol’s diary, Vivian’s extravagant hen do is formed, taking the ladies around the key attractions of Italy. We see the canals of Venice and the Colosseum of Rome, alongside many bright images of Italian culture and cuisine. There are a few mishaps on their journey which make up the comedic plotline. However, it is arguable that the pure essence of comedy can be found in the thoughtful design of each character and their role in the group’s dynamic. A credit to be bestowed upon the writers: Bill Holderman and Erin Simms.
Towards the end, old faces from the past reappear where decisions and morals are questioned. Still, the group keep their promise of a memorable hen do for Vivian before they regroup for her wedding. It is here that a major plot twist is launched at the viewers, but I won’t spoil that for you. All I will say is that I adored the last line that ties in neatly to the opening line of the film. It creates that sense of circular structure that many creatives crave. Despite the twists, it is a relief to see things put themselves right in the end.
My favourite element of the film was the characters. Whilst I relate a lot to Diane (despite the 50+ year age gap!) I find the group inspiring in how they have held onto their original university friendship throughout the decades. There are some key lessons I think anyone of any age can learn, with the group being willing to acknowledge their own individual mistakes, and be honest to each other while giving advice and ‘tough love’.
In a world that relies heavily on digital technology, where ghosting is common, and friendships easily drift apart, this movie really speaks to those of us who are grateful for the certain friendships we have formed and hope to last us through our entire lifetime.