At the Movies: “Book Club”
“Book Club” is a comedy that opens on Friday, May 18. Here’s the basic plot: Diane (Diane Keaton, 72) is a recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. Her daughter, Jill, is played by ALICIA SILVERSTONE, 41. (This is Silverstone’s first major studio film in 12 years. )
Diane’s best friends are Sharon (Candice Bergen, 71), a judge who is still upset about her decades-ago divorce; Carol (Mary Steenburgen, 65), who is a slump in her marriage; and Vivian (Jane Fonda, 80), who enjoys no-strings relationships with men. The action gets rolling when they decide to spice-up their dull book club by reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
The book’s main “theme” prompts Carol to try and get her husband to embrace some of the “tie me up” kinky stuff in the book. The best-seller’s steamy content convinces Sharon and Diane to jump in the dating pool. They start seeing guys played, respectively, by RICHARD DREYFUSS, 70, and Andy Garcia, 62. Meanwhile, Vivian starts seeing an old high-school flame played by Don Johnson, 68. Don’s real-life daughter, Dakota, co-starred in the “Fifty Shades” films and I suspect there will be a sly reference to that fact in “Book Club.”
The acting talent in this film is such that it almost can’t be unwatchable. But ensemble romantic comedies featuring a lot of big name actors rarely turn out to be comedy classics. The “Book Club” trailer was amusing, but it isn’t clear whether this film will have a lot of truly funny lines and truly insightful dialogue---or whether it will have just a few really funny lines, a predictable plot, and a lot of not-that-funny “tee hee” stuff about seniors and sex. I give “Book Club” one pass in advance: the theater audience will riot if the movie doesn’t end happy for all the ladies. So, I expect a schmaltzy ending.
Reboot and Re-Run
Remember PAIGE DAVIS? This musical actress was the perky host and star of the TLC series “Trading Spaces” for most of its original run (2000-2009). Early in April, the show was “rebooted” on TLC (new episodes Saturday at 8PM). Davis, 48, is again the host and the premise is the same: couples swap homes and have a limited budget to re-do each other’s homes with the help of a designer.
Now streaming on Hulu is the first season of “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” the classic ‘60s animated series. The show functioned on two levels: It worked as a children’s show, but frequently made references and jokes that were directed at adults (often hip, well-read adults). Two Jewish actors voiced a lot of the series’ iconic characters. PAUL FREES (1920-1966), born Solomon Hersh Frees, was the voice of baddie Boris Bedanov and Captain “Wrongway” Peachfuzz. JUNE FORAY (1917-2017), was the voice of Rocky, baddie Natasha Fatale, and every other female character in the show (including distinct cartoons within the show, like “Dudley Do-Right”.)
Foray (born Forer) was the daughter of a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant and a French Canadian mother who converted to Judaism I can’t provide, here, the amazing list of voice roles she created during a career that lasted 70 years (look her up!). Foray was the greatest female voice actor of all-time. Her only competition for the greatest, male or female, is MEL BLANC (1908-1989). Look him up, too.
Gottfried, Who Knew?
Reasonable people can differ on whether they like the usually dirty stand-up humor of GILBERT GOTTFRIED, 63. Sometimes I like Gottfried’s humor—dirty or not, and sometimes he doesn’t amuse me at all.
However, I was charmed and touched by the documentary film about his life, “Gilbert,” which was released in 2017 and is now streaming on Hulu. He wed his girlfriend of ten years, DARA KRAVITZ, now 48, in 2007 and they now have two lovable young children. Kravitz is a film producer and a former top record promotion executive.
She is the perfect wife for Gilbert—a miracle really—she’s smart, funny, nurturing, and tolerant of his huge quirks and neuroses. She laughs at stuff that would turn-off many other women. Gilbert’s wife and kids clearly adore him and just seem to accept his quirks and his absences due to frequent road trips. The unexpected continues as we see how kind Gilbert is to his sisters (lots of home movie stuff) and how they, too, adore him. Forget whether you like his comedy—this is a great and oddly heartwarming Jewish family story.