What You Need To Know:
BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER is rather uneventful until the second half. Stakes are raised when their rental car has a flat tire on the country road to Tuscany. The movie has a mixed worldview. For example, the script validates marriage several times, but two major characters say marriage is unnecessary. BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER also has two “f” words, four strong profanities, many light profanities, several light innuendoes, and a really lewd joke mocking Mother Teresa and her Christian faith.
BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER is a light comedy about four elderly female friends who decide to take a trip to Italy because one of them has finally decided to get married. Starring four veterans of the silver screen, BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER has some funny moments, but the story takes its time to unfold, has several strong obscenities and profanities and many light profanities, inserts a really crude offensive innuendo about Mother Teresa with some lighter ones, and has a mixed ending with two of the women validating marriage but another one rejecting it.
The movie opens with a montage about the four women only being able to meet through Zoom because of the COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. When they’re finally able to meet for their Book Club, Diane (Diane Keaton), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) learn that Vivian (Jane Fonda) has finally agreed to marry Arthur (Don Johnson), her long-time boyfriend. Carol is married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), who has to take things easy because he just had a heart attack. Sharon is a retired judge who never had time to get married. Last but not least, Diane is in a relationship with Mitchell, played by Andy Garcia.
On the spur of the moment, the ladies decide to take a bachelorette trip to Italy, including Rome and Tuscany. Carol is worried, of course, about her husband, Bruce’s, health, but he encourages her to go.
In Rome, things are pretty uneventful, until they go to a bridal shop so that Vivian can pick out a wedding dress. Then, a young artist convinces them to visit Venice.
On the train to Venice, however, they realize that the two young porters who took their luggage were thieves. They report the theft to the police, but the captain at the police station doesn’t hold out much hope in finding their missing luggage. He seems rather disinterested about their misfortune, and Carol and Vivian call him lazy.
At their hotel in Venice, Sharon strikes up a conversation with a man at the hotel bar. He invites them to a special dinner at his friend’s culinary school. At the dinner, Carol, whose restaurant went bully up under the lockdowns, learns that the chef was her teacher in culinary school. Will this lead Carol to break her marriage vows? And, will the women ever make it to Tuscany?
The first part of BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER plays like a stylized travelogue. The first sign of any conflict or true adventure is when the women’s luggage is stolen while they’re trying to board the train to Venice. Suspense and comedy are inserted when Carol meets her culinary school teacher. Some other comedy is added when Carol visibly tries to restrain her feelings toward this charming man. More comedy and suspense come when the women’s rental car has a flat tire on a lonely road leading to Tuscany. The stakes are raised when Vivian’s friends spring a surprise twist on her.
Sadly, the worldview and content in BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER are mixed.
On the one hand, there are some Christian and moral elements. For example, two of the women in one scene visit a church in Rome where a priest welcomes them and talks to them, and two side characters in Italy perform the Sign of the Cross to acknowledge the Triune God of the Bible. Also, all of the women affirm marriage at one point or another. For instance, they’re all happy for Vivian and her upcoming nuptials, and they all enjoy Vivian’s visit to the bridal shop to choose her wedding dress. In two other scenes, characters endorse getting married and performing marriage vows. BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER also promotes friendship and loyalty between friends.
On the other hand, two major characters assert in one scene that a man and a woman in love don’t need to get married to validate that love or remain loyalty to one another. Their attitude dilutes the scenes where characters endorse the idea and institution of marriage. BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER also has several light innuendoes about sex, two “f” words, four strong profanities, some obscenities, and many light profanities. Sadly, also, Jane Fonda’s character makes a really crude sex joke in one scene about Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun famous for her support of the poor and dying and her vocal support for preborn babies. The joke not only is really lewd; it also mocks the Christian, spiritual and moral character of Mother Teresa, and the character of any Catholic or Christian who might follow her example. Clearly, the joke is beyond the pale.
MOVIEGUIDE® doesn’t usually mark down a movie because of just one joke. However, in this case, the lewd Mother Teresa joke in BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER crosses the line and makes the movie unacceptable and excessive.
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