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‘The Book Club’ sequel is packed with romance and shenanigans in Rome and beyond

We have no complaints about The Book Club: The Next Chapter. It’s a fab, feelgood film that you don’t need to see the first instalment to enjoy.

While the first film was fairly static, the new movie is far more dynamic; full of adventure (a trip to Italy versus staying at home) and less about a ‘book club’, more the adventures of a ‘travel posse’.

Not a joke is spared in the quality dialogue, not even the slightest innuendo (and there’s plenty of that). Belly laughs ensue from the opening scenes, keeping up the amusement value throughout the entire film.

Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergan, and Mary Steenburgen make up the club, and this is one wine and over-hyped book breakdown we’d gladly be a part of.

Accompanying this fabulous foursome as they criss-cross Italy is an appealing prospect, no matter what age the audience member. The actresses each hold their own but never make it about themselves.

It’s a joy to see Candice Bergen do what she does best – as retired judge Sharon, delivering deadpan wit always on cue. Bergen is proof that a woman can take life-affirming (and sometimes hilarious) risks at the ripe age of 70.

Each actress, in fact, is iconic in her own but together they make a formidable team, offering pure entertainment while honouring the female sisterhood code that women of all ages can relate to.

There’s even a light-hearted Pretty Woman-type shopping montage where each of the gals get to have a go in dressing up as the bride (Diane Keaton’s ‘Diane’ goes full postmodern Annie Hall with her look) – and in Italian couture, no less.

The European scenes are majestic: shot mainly in iconic Rome, Florence and rural Tuscany, as well as showcasing the treasure that is Venice. The sights are so stunning, you’ll want to book that ticket to Italy and finally burst that post-Covid bubble.

The soundtrack is packed with revamped Italian pop classics such as Gloria, Mambo Italiano, and Felicità (the Italian moms will know all three).

But while this is very much a ‘chick flick’, mention should be made of two of Italy’s finest actors, Giancarlo Giannini who plays a dry-humoured senior police officer, and Vincent Riotta, playing a successful chef and old flame of Steenburgen’s Carol. Some of the funniest scenes involve one of these two fine gents whether it’s rekindling an old spark in a flirtation that mimics a scene in the Titanic, or going tit for tat with tantalising lines competing for power status of King Pin or Queen.

And let’s not forget the inimitable Jane Fonda. Her character Vivian has been given a late-in-life marriage proposal by Don Johnson’s Arthur, hence the reason her friends are throwing her the ultimate bachelorette adventure.

Far from your average hen’s celebration, this journey takes the women on unexpected twists and turns all in the pursuit of showing the bride the best time possible. A bit like the old limestone stairs that meander through small picturesque Tuscan towns, they find pleasure in unlikely means, even groping young hot policemen who look like poster-boy strippers… Well, when in Rome.

Yes, the film is a bit cheesy in parts, but oddly you want it to be; anything but happy endings just wouldn’t fly here.

While The Next Chapter is very Hollywood predictable, it can be forgiven in this particular case. As the film’s characters discover post-Covid escapism in the most extravagant way, we too get to gladly escape the post-pandemic glut, albeit vicariously and without the hefty price tag!

The film has fab cross-generational appeal, and while the cast may be (ahem) ‘senior’, the laughs, the romance, the clothes, the food and the idealic Italian settings are all a joy to sit through.

The perfect flick to take Mum to for Mother’s Day.

Annette McCubbin & Antonino Tati

‘The Book Club: The Next Chapter’ is in cinemas Thursday 11 May.

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