Thursday, May 11, 2023

'The Next Chapter': a page not to turn


Surely, someone could find something better to do with Mary Steenburgen, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Jane Fonda than plop them into Book Club: The Next Chapter, a hokey sequel in which members of a Los Angeles book club swap books for travel to Italy. A post-Covid comedy, the story centers on a bachelorette trip the four friends make preceding the wedding of Fonda's Vivian, a woman who has resisted marriage but finally has agreed to settle down with her fianc√©, Don Johnson's Arthur, a character from the first installment. Bergen's Sharon, a retired judge hands out snark -- or at least this movie's  version of it. Keaton's Diane has a relationship with Andy Garcia's Mitchell, another leftover from the first installment. To travel, Steenburgen's Carol must leave her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) at home; he's on the upswing after a recent heart attack but she's worried about him. Once in Italy -- notably Rome, Venice and Tuscany -- the women meet various men, including one of Carol's old flames, a chef played by Vincent Riotta. Giancarlo Giannini shows up as a good-hearted cop. Life for the women isn't always easy what with stolen luggage, a night in the slammer, and suggestive jokes that can seem more adolescent than mature. The result: a featherweight comedy with a picture postcard soul. What else to say? Only that filmmakers either can't find or are ignoring better material for gifted actresses who have been on the planet for 70 years or more.

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