A lot has happened since the events of the first Book Club movie—and there was nothing bigger than being quarantined for the coronavirus. Still, the group of friends we met in the first film learned how to use Zoom and chat online, and the world continued to revolve.
Other changes happened, too. Carol’s restaurant shut down due to a lack of customers. As a judge, Sharon’s become a bit jaded, marrying off a bunch of younger people. And Vivian—yes, Vivian—is getting married.
Despite Vivian’s distaste for holy matrimony, Arthur finally broke her down with his charm, and the two purchased an engagement ring on a spur-of-the-moment decision. Such a joyous occasion is reason for celebration, the rest of the group decides. And hey, they’ve always wanted to go to Italy, so why not turn the bachelorette celebration into a bachelorette vacation?
Soon, they’ve all arrived and are ready to mambo all around the Italian landscape. Carol, Sharon and Diane all have surprises in store for Vivian that they can’t wait to spring upon her.
But Italy’s got a few surprises of its own that the bookless book club will face, too.
Though things inevitably go awry during the trip, the group of women scarcely lets problems get them down. And if one of them begins to slip, the other three are quick to reassure them that everything will be alright. On the flip side, when something postive happens to one of them, the others celebrate their friend’s good fortune.
At one point, Vivian doubts her commitment to marriage, but her friends reassure her. Diane and Carol receive similar comfort and reassurances. The only member of the book club they are confident doesn’t have any issues in her life is Sharon (though even that isn’t quite the case, as we’ll see.) Regardless, the four women frequently support one another.
While searching for a venue, Vivian and Arthur check out a church. The priest there tells them about a statue of Saint Christopher, “the patron saint of travel.” Vivian and Arthur take the statue’s presence as a sign that Vivian should go to Italy. When Vivian tells Sharon that she’s inside a church, Sharon responds that she’s “shocked you didn’t burst into flames when you crossed the threshold.” A man crosses himself.
We hear many references to “the universe” or “fate” determining the future. In fact, Sharon eventually challenges Vivian to stop blaming everything on such things and to take control of her life rather than letting it passively slip away.
Someone says that you should trust your heart, “because it always, always, guides you right.” That sentimental exhortation immediately brings to mind Mark 7:21 and Jeremiah 17:9, the latter of which reads: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Someone talks about a “Divine Master’s stroke” in reference to affirmation of a marriage.
Most of the many jokes in Book Club: The Next Chapter are sexual in nature. One woman suggests that a bachelorette party “means we go see naked men.” To accomplish that, the women look at marble statues of naked men, and we briefly see the statue’s genitals. “Where do I stuff the dollar bills?” Someone asks. The women furthermore joke about the small size of the statue’s genitals, with Vivian making a crude, suggestive joke about male arousal. The breasts of a female statue are visible, too.
Sharon flirts with a stranger, and the two have sex in a boat. When the man is caught by a police officer asking what he’s doing, Sharon responds “that would be me.”
The women use Italian words as double entendres for male and female genitals. Carol’s dress bears a bit of cleavage, and her friends point it out. Later, Carol reconnects with an old flame, and she decides to flirt with him despite already being married. We later hear the two of them grunting suggestively as the van they’re in rocks back and forth, but it’s later revealed that the two were just vigorously making pasta dough together. The man later texts Carol a thanks for “rubbing his dough” and providing a “very happy ending to his night,” and Carol worries that her husband with misinterpret the texts (as her friends make many more crude references).
We see kisses between several different couples. We hear references to and jokes about various sexual body parts or bodily functions, including pubic hair, male and female genitals, arousal and ejaculation.
And there are still more references to sex. Vivian describes her ideal wedding dress as “sexy, yet traditional.” Someone misunderstands the flow of a conversation, leading to a sexual reference. A character mentions “making love in the park.” Someone talks about a man’s genitals, and another person says, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done for him—sexually.” We see someone text about buying new lingerie. Sharon talks about having so much sex that she doesn’t remember who she got a jacket from. Another crude quip comes from someone who says Mother Teresa “wasn’t just on her knees praying,” after a reference to oral sex.
A car swerves and nearly crashes after its tire bursts. Vivian thinks a buff police officer is actually a stripper, and she touches his body without his consent, telling him to start taking his clothes off.
The Lord’s name is paired with an f-word once, and it’s taken in vain a second time as well. The s-word is heard five times. We also hear “d–n,” “h—” and “b–tard.” God’s name is used in vain about 60 times, including one use with “d–n.”
The fours friends drink wine in most scenes. Diane admits that she may be a bit intoxicated, and another character deals with a hangover. We hear a reference to syringes used for drugs.
Men steal luggage. Diane accidentally drops an urn full of ashes from a helicopter. Many people discuss how their previous marriages failed.
Book Club: The Next Chapter has nothing to do with books, instead leaning fully into the relational side of things with messages that make the purpose of relationships seem a bit self-serving.
The movie casts Vivian as its primary focus, and she approaches the prospect of getting married with something akin to excited dread. That dread comes almost exclusively from her fear of having to, in essence, think about someone else.
That’s not the explicit message, of course, but it’s certainly implicit in Vivian’s dialogue about preferring dating to marriage, because it’s less commitment. The moral here is essentially that Vivian will love Arthur so long as she doesn’t have to give up anything for him. She’ll choose him so long as she has the ability to un-choose him if need be. In this approach to matrimony, Book Club fundamentally misunderstands marriage, approaching it from a self-centered “What can I get out of this?” mindset rather than a self-sacrificial one.
I only write that harsh paragraph to express the ugliness of such a view of marriage. And as for the rest of the film, well, it felt more like the whole sequel was made as an excuse for the actresses to have fun in Italy—many of the scenes simply show them touring Rome, Venice and Florence, wine in hand. I don’t know if the movie was intended to feel like someone showing me a slideshow of their vacation, but that’s how it came across to me.
Like its predecessor, Book Club: The Next Chapter relies heavily on bawdy jokes and suggestive gags for its humor, and the women additionally use God’s name in vain about 60 times.
So is there anything positive here? I’ll admit that the foursome’s steadfast friendship and encouragement of one another are traits to be desired among any friend group. Then again, you can bet that the movie would jump at the chance to make a sex joke because of my use of the word “foursome.”
The first Book Club was a box office success, earning more $100 million against a $14 million budget. But not every box office blowout demands a sequel. And Book Club: The Next Chapter falls squarely into that latter category.
Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”