Since 1974, these four best friends, Vivian (Jane Fonda), Diane (Diane Keaton), Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Sharon (Candice Bergen) get together to read something every month. But now they’ve reached an age where their kids are all grown up and their husbands are either dead, have left them, or are troubling. Or, maybe, still haven’t found them yet. Yeah, I’ll let you add two plus two. But yeah, Diane’s family is treating her like she needs a cane and takes a dozen medications, which she doesn’t. Carol’s husband Bruce just had a retirement party and he’s completely wan. Sharon’s divorced husband is marrying a babe, in more than one sense of the word, and Vivian stumbles upon someone from a long time ago. This, of course, while Vivian has decided the book they’re going to read is Fifty Shades of Grey. By E.L. James. Everyone else is saying how disgusted they are to be even touching the book, but the idea of going back into a sex life, or trying to start one for the first time, ends up an idea of theirs thanks to the book, and now that they feel they have nothing to lose, they set off and see where it takes them.
Several years ago, I was forced into watching The Big Wedding, which also had Diane Keaton in the main role alongside a poster with a main colour that was anything BUT big. And thankfully I’ve forgotten about most of it, but I at least remember the F-movie-experience of surviving it. And now another Diane Keaton comedy comes with Fifty Shades of Grey being a centrepiece in the plot, but I was still drawn to it because I got the impression it was trying to do what the Bad Moms movies did, showing grown-ups do not have to surrender their fun and youth. And what I ended up watching was surprisingly attention-retaining and even more surprisingly tasteful.
For me, watching two people count each other’s freckles is almost never consistently attention-grabbing. But in this particular case, we have four main protagonists who all want to reach for some Durex, and thanks to these storylines, I was never exhausted by one. There was always another one happening. A movie with only Keaton and Andy Garcia’s characters dating and flying planes probably wouldn’t have worked for me at all. It’s also an added boost that the humour really works. It’s not a laugh-fest but an unexpected chuckle-fest. Good enough! Some lines include:
“I’m screwed. Or, actually, rather, I’m not screwed.”
“Every lumberjack is happier with lots of wood.”
“Even Christian Grey found love and he was fifty shades of f***ed up.”
There’s even the simple “Kill me now” comment that made me smile. I think we also have the four stars to thank. They’re not veteran actresses for nothing. I liked how well each of them were able to have their own lives shown without the details getting thrown in our face and putting us to sleep. We can ignore whether or not they each liked Fifty Shades of Grey equally, or their first book, Fear of Flying. And we can just go along with it, each storyline about twenty minutes long total, and as a result never feels suffocated...Yeah, you get what I mean by now. I’m often impatient with romance movies and this one avoided doing that altogether. I also liked the fact Sharon is a judge. Not many of them are very laid back in the entertainment business and I liked the fact someone whose job it is to be stern and mean was allowed to loosen up.
A few things I think I would’ve changed were how persistent Diane’s daughters get about her. It gets a little repetitive fast, and Carol has to give this apology that I think was actually too sweet. And there are a few overly sappy moments just like it involving the love interests all scattered around here, but the fact this movie manages to satirize Fifty Shades of Grey without showing actual contempt for the book and its fans, plus a cameo that made me burst out laughing, I’d be willing to schedule for the next book club.