Exploring friendship in “Book Club: The Next Chapter”

Published 11:29 am Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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This week at Tryon Theatre, we have a refreshing summer cocktail of a film–a light, bubbly and indulgent experience that is sure to leave you with a smile. This effervescent film is “Book Club: The Next Chapter,” a sequel to its delightfully charming predecessor, “Book Club” (Holderman 2018). 

The first film in this series established a nearly forty-year friendship between four women, a committed book club meeting weekly to share not only literary art but their lives, their own narratives reflected in and influenced by their reading. Friends are the family we get to choose, and the four friends at the center of this film are truly sisters, bonded through time and experience. 

The four friends are played by four legendary ladies of screen who all inhabit their characters with well-worn authenticity and personality. The quartet is composed of Vivian (Jane Fonda), Diane (Diane Keaton), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen), whose shared dynamic is infectiously loving and charmingly antagonistic, a balance found in all lifelong friendships. The first film found these ladies, decades into their book club, embracing a lurid and fantastical book, Fifty Shades of Grey (James 2011), expecting to laugh, but instead finding themselves taking deeper meaning from the novel’s pulpy pages. The thread of personal freedom and of self-discovery contained in the book inspired these friends to reevaluate their lives, their romances and their desires. 

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One particular romance of import is that between Vivian and Arthur (Don Johnson), who, after drawn-out indecision, cement their relationship at the end of the first film. This newly minted pairing is the narrative springboard for “Book Club: The Next Chapter,” as Vivian announces her recent engagement to Arthur. The friends decide that this union must be celebrated properly, with all the required grandeur and flair, necessitating a bachelorette trip to Italy. 

This trip provides more opportunities for the club to spread its wings of personal discovery. However, the journey is not all negronis and tiramisu, as the friends’ shared spirit brings them as much trouble as it does fun, bonding them through adversity and laughter in equal measure. 

Of course, this new chapter for the book club is not without a new book, as the ladies trade their tales of titillating trysts for more philosophical discoveries, reading Paulo Coehlo’s acclaimed novel The Alchemist (1988). For anyone who has read Coehlo’s novel, they will see certain echoes of its themes throughout the film, as yet again the club’s book bleeds into their lives in novel (pun intended) and transformative ways. 

The exact capacity in which the film reflects the novel is a reward for your own journey in following these friends through their shared experiences. This film is guaranteed to make you laugh with these characters, but hopefully, it will make you feel with them as well, as you participate in the warmth and joy of lifelong friendship, still changing and growing, no matter how many years have passed.