Book Club the next chapter review

Book Club: The Next Chapter review | A toothless sequel

Book Club: The Next Chapter is the worst kind of sequel; a completely toothless film about nothing at all. Read our full review.


It’s been five years since we last joined Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) for Book Club and a lot has happened since. We have lived through a whole pandemic and while most films brush this under the carpet Book Club: The Next Chapter, begins with the group’s reunion after a spout of virtual meet-ups. Inspired by Paul Coelho’s life affirming words and some surprise forthcoming nuptials, the lifelong friends decide to throw caution to the wind and head for Italy. 

Don’t worry, you don’t need to have read ‘The Alchemist’ before viewing. 

The choice to begin at the reopening of the world, despite its relatability is a misstep. Little laughs are gained from the jokes on pandemic activities and Zoom mishaps other than knowing chuckles. But once the group get away from their remote opening, Book Club: The Next Chapter trots along at a similarly jolly pace as its predecessor, packed with more obvious sex jokes. 

book club 2

Credit: Universal Pictures

This sequel feels similar to Sex and The City 2 without some of the more problematic notes, but brimming with the same exorbitant displays of wealth. This only works to remind audiences that the desired demographic of these films are not women over 60, but rich women over sixty. 

The book club women are determined to change their ways, to stop living a stunted existence and actually enjoy their remaining years. By adopting what they have gleaned from Paul Coelho, which is an absconding of materialism and dismissal of the notion of fate, they hope to travel a different path.

This sentiment would be more empowering if the film’s entire plot didn’t hinge on the group’s financial status. It’s easy to not care about lost material goods when a quick swipe of an Amex card results in many more nice things to replace them. The change of plans on a whim with the aim of spicing up their life is less an attempt to be adventurous and more a privilege of the rich to flit from Rome to Venice at the drop of a well-worn paperback.  

If you manage to overlook the upper class lens of the first instalment, you can once again appreciate Book Club: The Next Chapter for its glossy escapism. All of the cast have returned comfortably to the roles, volleying between honest quips and heartfelt confessions befitting the rom-com. 

However, it’s Candice Bergen’s trademark monotone delivery as Sharon that lands the most laughs. When paired with her unabashed sexual prowess, it makes Bergen the undebated scene stealer of the film; a notable achievement in a cast of formidable comedians.

Book Club’s core strength lies in its representation of older women who enjoy passion and romantic lives. It’s a reality often lost on an ageist Hollywood that still delivers older women as sterile role models, with the few notable exceptions coming from Emma Thompson (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande), Jean Smart (Hacks) and Jane Fonda’s other comedy (Grace & Frankie). 

While it’s a delight to see the ladies enjoy European frivolities, the japes of the friendship group are brought to a screeching halt when the bachelorette tour of Italy becomes a wedding. In the film’s third act, instead of laughter, we are left rolling our eyes at this group of friends who couldn’t be away from their men for more than a few days. 

As the film plateaus into a litany of sappy speeches stacked messily onto one another, you’re left thinking did you need to bring the men into this? Book Club: The Next Chapter ends with a toothless message about marriage to match its limiting representation that only feels radical due to a cultural lack. The sequel will not age as well as the wine that fills this vaguely literary caper.

Book Club: The Next Chapter is in UK cinemas  12 May.

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