Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Book Club: a Movie Review


The movie review at rogerebert.com starts like this: “When I learned that Book Club was Hollywood’s latest bid to please the senior-discount demo with a glittering array of big-screen notables of a certain age was partly inspired by the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy—aka The Joy of Sex for semi-literates—I shuddered a bit. Please, don’t waste the estimable talents of Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, all acting together for the very first time, on kinky cosplay.” Have you ever googled a word like “cosplay” and after reading what pops up you still don’t have a clear picture of what the person who used it was trying to say? Understand it or not I’m using the quote above to supplement how IMDb sums up the storyline of the film: “Four lifelong friends have their lives forever changed after reading Fifty Shades of Grey in their monthly book club.”

Each character supposedly “represents a romantic stage of older womanhood,” but I personally don’t known any wealthy women who have never married---Fonda’s part---who has an active sex life but never gets emotionally involved with any of her sex partners. When she hands out the ‘Fifty Shades’ books she picked for the group to read one of the ladies said, “Give me a break. I’m not reading that!” and another says, “To even be holding this book is embarrassing." I’ve never known a federal judge either---Bergen’s part. She plays a divorced woman who hasn’t been interesting in dating (or sex) in nearly two decades. At one point in the movie she says could put Christian Grey “in jail for any one of those things” he did to Ana in the book. Steenburgen plays a married woman who hasn't has sex in six months. Keaton plays a widow one year out who is being pressured to move into a ‘senior-safe’ basement suite at her daughter’s house. And one of the best lines in the movie came when she told her daughters “you both seem to have good mothering instincts but you should save it for your children.” 

You can’t have love and romance in a movie without men---well, you could but not in this storyline---and they paired Fonda with Don Johnson and Bergen with Richard Dreyfuss. Steeburgen’s husband was played by Craig Nelson and I saved the best for last, Keaton was paired with Andy Garcia. All six of us who saw the movie together left the theater in love with Andy’s character. He and Johnson provided the required silver-fox eye candy for this old hen flick. (Old hen as opposed to chick flick. Not funny? Sue me.) The casting director‘s choice of Don was an interesting pick considering his daughter, Dakota Johnson, played the lead in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. In an interview he said he didn’t see the movies because “there are some images that shouldn’t be in a father’s head.” Good choice, Don.

I don’t know how the opening weekend box office sales were but judging by the fact that I could have seen Book Club with three separate groups, I’m guessing they were good. My senior hall Movie and Lunch club chose it but I only went to lunch with the fifteen in that group. My Red Hat Society chapter threw in an extra outing for May just to see the movie and that doesn’t happen often. I went with my Gathering Girls group. We laughed. Two of us cried. And all of us had a fabulous time and several of us---including me---want to see Book Club again because there was so much dialogue that got lost in the laughter at the theater. 

As a feminist I had mixed feelings about seeing a movie that piggybacked on the popularity of the ‘Fifty Shades’ books and movies. I even wrote a blog in 2015 about how I think the mainstreaming of sadism and masochism is a dangerous message to send to the young women and men. Last February the first movie came on late night TV and I decided I’d bitched about the so-called “erotic romance” enough that I should see if my impression that hard core S&M and grooming for such was being passed off as romantic foreplay matched up with what was actually in the film. It did. S&M should stay in The Encyclopedia of Abnormal Human Behavior Encyclopedia where I first learned about it decades ago. When I was telling one of the Gathering Girls pals about my skepticism about seeing Book Club she said, “We don’t know how the material is handled in THIS movie.” That was a good point and reason enough for me to give up my qualms about paying money for something that might elevate the ‘Fifty Shades’ mind-set.

As it turned out, the characters in Book Club agreed near the end of reading the trilogy that it wasn’t very good even though it did bring changes in each of their lives. (The emotionally unavailable hotel owner opened herself up to being vulnerable. The judge started online dating, the recent widow found her voice and the married couple made their way back to each other.) Although one of the characters said a line about trilogy that rubbed me the wrong way: "It's just a love story that proves even a guy who is fifty shades of fucked up needs love.” If they had left that one line out of the movie my feminist sensibilities would have been happier. It's a dog-whistle to abused women who suckle at the tit of ‘Fifty Shades’ suggesting they should keep loving their abuser instead of leaving. 

But the bottom line from my point of view is you don’t have to like the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey books and movies to enjoy a light comedy like Book Club. I sure did. And it definitely wasn't "cosplay"---I finally figured out what the word means. No one dressed up in S&M garb or bought handcuffs or set up a red room with torture devices like Mr. Grey's. The characters were relatable and believable and I loved the way Candice Bergen delivered her nuanced humor. She was my favorite character. If you saw the movie who was your favorite? ©


If you want to read a funny (but long) tongue-in-cheek movie review of the last of the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy movies, I highly recommend one from The Atlantic. Fifty Shades Freed: a Spoilereview

33 comments:

  1. Jean R. - I *really* like your posts. +1 to all your comments especially re dog whistle/abuse.

    Re the actresses, my eyes are still popping out. Jane Fonda is *80* - she looks the youngest of the lot!!! Her plastic surgeon has earned every penny he got. BUT how does she maintain her figure?! and her joie de vivre?! even her eyes are sparkling like a teenager girl in love for the first time.

    Diane K. and Candice B. look ancient by comparison tho' much younger than Jane F. Mary S seems unchanged for many years, Ditto Craig T. Nelson.

    Don J. is dishy. Andy Garcia used to be dishy but has aged.

    Jane F. in her interview comments about "Real life. special effects...dah dah dah". Really?! Yes, but with a heavy dose of plastic surgery!

    My hat off to ALL of them, most of all to Jane F. My eyes continue to pop.

    No, I think I'll give this movie a miss - or, until I lose a couple of kilos. ~ Libby

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    1. Jane Fonda has had some plastic surgery. But so have some of the other Hollywood stars in her age bracket who don't look half that good. She definitely minds her diet, her skin and exercises. She's always been pushing exercise tapes so I'm guessing she really walks the talk.

      Trust me, Garcia was 'dishy' in this movie and Don not to much in my opinion. The character Andy played brought out his good looks.

      Another thing I liked about Book Club is a couple of time in the movie someone or another would quote a line from a book and one of the ladies would correct it...just like every devoted reader I've ever known.

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    2. It should have read: "..The film is all about real life. No special effects...dah dah dah".

      With all that plastic surgery, its not real life as I know it. Plastic surgery IS the special effect!

      But there's a lot of *damn* hard work to maintain fitness like these 60+ actors and I continue to tip my hat off to them. Also to the producers for bucking the youth trend. ~ Libby

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    3. The couple who wrote and directed the film were first timers at the craft. And That says something about the leap of faith the seasoned actors all at in the script.

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    4. P.S. If we want to see Hollywood continue to buck the trend and make more films for our demography we have to support those they do make. That's one of the reasons I finally caved about seeing this one.

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  2. I was thinking about seeing the movie but after reading your blog I'm going to take Mary Lou to see this movie. I love all the actors on this movie and I have read Fifty Shades. I'm still breathing heavy after that one. LOL. I have one question to ask. Does your Book Club behave like the one in the movie? LOL Enjoy your Saturday Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Given what I know about your sense of humor I think you'll like the movie. Let me know or better yet, write your own review in your blog.

      I wish my book club was like the one in the movie. I had book club envy watching that aspect of this movie. We don't drink wine for one thing and we're all very "civilized." I don't always like my book club and sometimes wonder why I stick with it. It's filled with retired educators who often don't see books/plots/etc. the same way I do...makes me feel stupid.

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    2. Hi Jean. I have an idea. Why don't you make your own " Book Club " of your own with people more like you and then you all can totally enjoy the movie together. No more Stuffy educators. See ya my friend.

      Cruisin Paul

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    3. Could work, Paul. But there is value in being challenged by people who don't all think the same way or have the same educational background.

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  3. I was curious about this movie for I liked all the actors--my age group--but my nearest theater is a 3 hour round trip. I am glad it gave you the giggles even when you were prepared not to like it. That says a lot.

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    1. I wouldn't make a 3 hour round trip to see it but when it comes on a format you can watch at home, do give it a try.

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  4. Great movie review! THANKS! I do love the actresses from our era .. It does seem like the industry is making lot of senior citizen movies all about sex! (like Netflix Original "Grace and Frankie") I'm looking forward to when they broaden that out a bit.

    I watch quite a bit of BBC TV series ... their actors are so human, warts and all! I fit in with these people!

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    1. The baby boomers have always driven the market place and we're seeing that in our entertainment industry at the moment. I hope it lasts! I don't think I can get the BBC.

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  5. I saw it and loved it!! I'm a bit younger than the demographics for this movie (55), but I thought the writing and acting were great. And Andy Garcia, oh my my. He just keeps getting better looking. I've always loved Craig and I thought Don has aged quite well, but knowing he's quite a bit younger than Fonda struck me as weird at the beginning. Diane. Heaton is my favorite, although I do love Candice Bergen also. I'd gladly sure it again.

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    1. The young couple that wrote the script got the idea because, as a joke the each had given their moms a boxed trilogy of 'Fifty Shades' and were inspired by the comments and conversations that joke lead to. I really think any demographic would like it, especially those with mom's in the demographic.

      Fonda requested Johnson to play opposite her and they sure looked well matched in age even though they weren't.

      I did see it a second time since writing the blog and surprisingly I came away believing the dialogues had more depth to it than I originally thought, more truisms and insight into the characters, I guess I'd call it. Thanks for sharing your opinion!

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  6. Our book club is planning an outing to this one in early June so I'm glad to get a take from someone who has actually seen it vs. an anonymous reviewer. And I will certainly look forward to seeing it!

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    1. When we were there it was obviously several book clubs were viewing it together and surprisingly books actually were discussed in passing in the movie. Since writing this I read it came in 3rd in opening box office sales and that's good for a movie of this kind. I've gotten in the habit of reading movie reviews after I've seen a movie rather than before hand. Don't ask me why, I'm not sure why!

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  7. The moment I saw the first trailer on TV, I determined I wanted to see this movie. Probably watch it when Comcast puts it out On Demand.

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  8. I've been somewhat distracted the last month, but I wondered why I hadn't gotten an email recently saying there was a new post. I thought of it yesterday and got a little worried, then today I just got my first notification of a post since late April! This happen to anyone else?

    I've missed reading your posts.

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    1. Jeez, since late April? I've been blogging my regular Wednesday and Saturdays right on time. I don't understand how the notifications works so I can't address the mystery. Maybe someone else can, but that might explain why my comments have been a little down.

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  9. Good review Jean. I really liked the movie......lots to think about. The writers seem to have a good understanding of "mature" women. I liked it more than I thought I would.

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    1. Ya, me too. And it really was more layered than I expected which I didn't see the first time around. You could tell the young writers/directors respected older people.

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  10. I saw this movie last weekend with friend. Love the actresses in it and happy to see them still getting gigs. I do wonder though why women of that age are still chasing/pining for men. I thought that Diane Keaton's character was going to be the one to represent those of us who are perfectly happy on our own, but no...she ends up with Andy Garcia. I guess it would be a pretty boring movie though: "Woman having the time of her life, happy being alone. No plot, no drama." I'd pay to see that one!

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    1. I didn't really see any of the characters as
      'pining for a man' or except for the married one. Three of them had active lives and meaningful work and seemed happy with their lives. Keaton always plays the same neurotic and insecure character in movies but for once she learned how to listen to her inner voice and speak up for herself. But I agree that they needed a fifth woman to represent the older woman who has carved out her life the way she wants it and wants it to stay that way.

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  11. I saw Keaton interviewed about the movie, and she said when she watched it, she realized that Bergen got all the laughs. She said she hadn't realized she was so good at comedy. I haven't seen it, but I love all the women in it, and plan to see it.

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  12. Bergen character seemed the most like the average woman to me...confident, intelligent and not afraid to laugh at herself. I've loved all the interviews I've seen of the stars. Their perceptions of the characters were all insightful and interesting.

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  13. I really like all these actresses, but I'm still so annoyed that this book continues to hog so much attention. Its writing is downright awful, and as far as its subject matter--not new. But it's a cultural juggernaut, and let's face it: our culture is...well, look no further than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
    'Nuff said.
    You make a lot of good observations in this review, especially about this film's box office take driving other films being greenlighted for the Older Female demographic. Films for women can't be driven simply by the #MeToo movement; they have to be made because women want to see them.
    But this book...Ugh.

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    1. I really don't think it does women any good to make and see a bunch of movies that portrayed women as victims aka Harvey Weinstein style which no one was in this stoyline. But I've given some thought to if the same story could have been told if they had replaced 'Fifty Shades' with a different book without the cult following like 'Sex After Sixty.' It would have worked just as well. However, I'm guessing it wouldn't have had the same box office success and movies need that. I was reading reviews at a site for fans of 'Fifty Shades' and they were all grumbling about it not having any Christian Grey action in it. They felt cheated. So score one for the 'Book Club' director on that point.

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  14. You know that I would like to see the movie. Just haven't had the time. I love these women and frankly these men too. Andy is my boyfriend, he just doesn't know this though. (Damn it) I never read the books because they sounded stupid to me. I had a woman shove her book in my face and told me to read a certain page. It was so poorly written it was actually funny.
    But I love these women. Can't wait for Murphy Brown to come back.
    And just so you know, I do know a couple of women of means over 65 who are single after a spouse moved on. They are out there and having some fun. :-)

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    1. If you have ten minutes to kill sometime and are curious about the Fifth Shades movie read the link to the spoiler review below. He points out ALL the writing flaws and how when he went to a reviewer's screening people were laughing at how poor the writing was, laughing at all the wrong places, it was so bad.

      I can't wait for Murphy Brown to come back either. She hasn't lost her timing, that's for sure.

      I know lots of women who have moved on after their spouse died, too. I just don't know any with lots of money. :)

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  15. I just sat down to write my own blog post about the movie. Now I have to compete with your great review! I really wanted to see this because the ads on TV made me laugh out loud and I love every one of those actors and actresses. My expectations were for a funny, light-hearted, probably predictable rom-com and that's what it was. Could the topic have been explored with more depth and seriousness? Yes. I would like to see a movie do that. But that wasn't what this one was setting out to do. I wrote about the 50 Shades book back when it came out too. I was disgusted at how coercing a young virgin into S&M sexual exploration was seen as a "love story" and I hated that line you quoted in Book Club too! Ugh! But all in all I thought this movie was fun and funny and I loved watching those veteran actresses do their thing. My fave was also Candice Bergen. She was a gem in this movie...those shots of her taking photos for the dating site? So funny!

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    1. I am so looking forward to reading your review of the movie. Knowing how another feminist I know and trust thought about it matters to me and it looks like we had similar reactions. When I saw Book Club a second time I did come away thinking there was more depth to it than I did the first time but I still wish they would have spent a few more lines condemning S&M, but it still was a good movie.

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