Next Chapter is a by-the-numbers tale of friendship

4195_D018_00176_RC3 (l-r) Mary Steenburgen stars as Carol, Candice Bergen as Sharon, Diane Keaton as Diane and Jane Fonda as Vivian in BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER, a Focus Features release. Credit: Riccardo Ghilardi / © 2023 FIFTH SEASON, LLC

The second week of the summer movie season features an onslaught. Without a major blockbuster release, it’s more of a choose your own adventure. Being Mother’s Day Weekend, we get offerings that are more geared toward the female audience. One of those includes the sequel to Book Club.

Released in 2018, the film followed four lifelong friends whose lives changed after ready 50 Shades of Grey. It’s an interesting set up, but it worked because of the connection between the stars—Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen and Diane Keaton. Now, five years later, we get a follow up.

The film picks up in the present. It begins by showing how the quartet survived life in a pandemic, keeping the book club connection alive via online meetings. Finally able to meet again in person, Vivian (Fonda) shares some big news—she and Arthur (Don Johnson) are getting married.

This starts them down the path of memory lane. Quickly, Carol (Steenburgen), whose restaurant closed during the pandemic, suggests they all finally take a trip to Italy. The suggestion comes that it become a bachelorette trip of sorts, and after thinking on it and working out all the details, the four friends embark on an overseas journey. It doesn’t all go as expected, but it’s time for the ladies to reflect and share a fun adventure together.

You get the nature of the film through the marketing campaign. There are precious few surprises in this film, which is mostly about having more time with these characters and seeing how they progressed from where we left off. Most are still dealing with the same issues and still wrestling with how they want to live their lives, especially now that they’re firmly in the retirement years.

The four stars have good chemistry together, which helps. There are some laughs and some fun locations to see. But when it comes to plot and a narrative that moves forward, this one is a bit too by-the-numbers. It’s fine and a pleasant journey but it doesn’t have some of the spark of the original. By contrast this feels a bit stale.

For the core audience, it will work to have more time and another adventure with these friends. But overall, the film is just OK and not likely to carve out a big audience in the midst of a busy summer movie season.

Book Club: The Next Chapter opens in theaters Friday, May 12.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.


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