Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2018. Apartment Story, June Pictures. Screenplay by Bill Holderman, Erin Simms. Cinematography by Andrew Dunn. Produced by Andrew Duncan, Bill Holderman, Alex Saks, Erin Simms. Music by Peter Nashel. Production Design by Rachel O’Toole. Costume Design by Shay Cunliffe. Film Editing by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly.
Four Los Angeles women have stayed connected thanks to their monthly book club, begun in their college days and maintained through the decades to the present despite how different their lives are. Now in their sixties and seventies, these women have been told that their best days of ambition, happiness and satisfying sexuality are behind them, but when wealthy hotel owner Jane Fonda suggests that they spice up their lives by reading E.L. James’ runaway best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey, the ridiculously steamy reading material provides inspiration that brings them all to a crossroads in their various, frustrated situations. Diane Keaton is recently widowed and has to hide a possible romance with sexy pilot Andy Garcia from her overprotective daughters (Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton), Fonda has reconnected with an old boyfriend (Don Johnson, whose daughter starred in the film version of James’ books) and her fear of monogamy is being put to the test, Candice Bergen is a federal judge whose ex-husband’s remarriage to a very young woman threatens her insistence on solitude, and Mary Steenburgen is unhappy that her years of good sex with husband Craig T. Nelson have suddenly ended. Moving at a smooth pace and punctuated by a few healthy laughs, most of them coming from an outstanding Bergen doing the kind of intelligent irritability we’ve always loved most from her, this is a pleasant look at the kinds of characters that usually get pushed to the margins in other Hollywood films, but is so proud of having chosen them as a subject that it forgets to actually give them enough fun stuff to do. Bill Holderman’s direction and screenplay, co-written with Erin Simms, win no points for grand originality or awe-inspiring perception, but they do balance all their narrative strands evenly and present characters whose plight is wholly sympathetic. Unfortunately, their determination to keep things from becoming The Hangover meets The Golden Girls means that the really funny jokes (Keaton accidentally grabbing Garcia’s package, or Bergen doing the nasty in Richard Dreyfuss‘ car) eventually give way to sentimentality in the conclusion, almost as if Keaton’s overprotective daughters and their conservative ideas of how women age eventually win the day. A film that has Jane Fonda telling her girlfriends to read a book involving leather and spanking should have gone way further, this was never a woman who did things by halves, but watching it won’t be the worst way you’ve spent your time either.