In 'Book Club: The Next Chapter,' the ladies live, laugh, and love in Italy : Pop Culture Happy Hour Book Club: The Next Chapter is a sequel that reunites four legendary actresses: Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen. In this iteration, the ladies jet-set to Italy. It's a light-hearted, very silly romp with a meet-cute, an old paramour, lost luggage, and multiple jokes about meatballs.

In 'Book Club: The Next Chapter,' the ladies live, laugh, and love in Italy

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"Book Club: The Next Chapter" is a sequel that reunites four legendary actresses - Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. In this iteration, the ladies jet set to Italy. It's a lighthearted, very silly romp that also features Andy Garcia, Don Johnson and multiple jokes about meatballs. I'm Aisha Harris, and today we're talking about "Book Club: The Next Chapter" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.


HARRIS: Joining me today is Kristen Meinzer. She co-hosts the podcast "The Daily Fail" and is the co-author of "How To Be Fine." Hey, Kristen.

KRISTEN MEINZER: Hey, Aisha. So excited to be back to talk about this romp through Italy with you.

HARRIS: I know. I've romped through Italy once before, and this was a nice little...


HARRIS: ...Living vicariously through four fabulous ladies.

MEINZER: Yes. Yes.

HARRIS: So if you recall the original "Book Club" - and let's face it, you probably don't. I didn't before I went into this film. The premise is about as sweet and easy to sip as a limoncello. "Book Club: The Next Chapter" is, of course, no different. Jane Fonda plays a hotel magnate and lifelong bachelorette who's about to marry her long-lost love played by Don Johnson. Diane Keaton plays a widow who's found love again with a pilot played by Andy Garcia. Candice Bergen plays a divorcee and a recently retired judge. And Mary Steenburgen plays a former restaurateur whose husband has recently had a heart attack. He's played by Craig T. Nelson.

Now, you may have noticed, I haven't even bothered with mentioning their character names because this is a very fizzy affair, and in a fizzy affair like this, character names absolutely do not matter. So we're just going to refer to them by their first names, the actresses' first names. So the ladies decide to take a trip to Italy to celebrate Jane's impending nuptials. And as they hop around Rome, Venice and Tuscany, there's a meet-cute, an old paramour and lost luggage. "Book Club: The Next Chapter" is in theaters now.

So, Kristen, tell me how you feel about "Book Club: The Next Chapter."

MEINZER: Oh, I just thought it was delightful. It's frothy. It's sweet. It's relaxing. It's aspirational. I mean, who doesn't want to be rich, beautiful and surrounded by their best friends in beautiful Italy in their 70s? Italy looks great here. The ladies look great here. And their friendship is just great. They're very honest with each other but also supportive. They're never competitive. They are who I want to be when I am older. They're who I want to be now. Anybody who is going to criticize this for being too slow, for not having enough story - 'cause I know that some folks are criticizing it for that - I just want to say we're not here for "The Fast And The Furious," OK? That's not what this is about. If you want "The Fast And The Furious," don't see "The Book Club" or "Book Club: Next Chapter." This is a cozy warm blanket. It is friendship. It is beautiful Italy. That's what this is.

HARRIS: I mean, one could argue that it is just as silly and ridiculous as the "Fast And Furious" franchise...

MEINZER: (Laughter) Yes.

HARRIS: ...But in a very different way.

MEINZER: Agreed.

HARRIS: And I think that actually - I have this thing - even though I am a 30-something Black woman, I have this thing for these, what I like to call, kind of, like, the Talbots-chic aesthetic movies where you have these older veteran actresses, usually some combination of Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton and, like...

MEINZER: (Laughter).

HARRIS: ...Other women - of course, there was the - "80 For Brady" earlier this year. I love these movies because I recognize this aesthetic. It's, like, rich older women who clearly have a lot of time on their hands to just do whatever they want. They tend to dress in colorful light fabrics and usually some, like, animal print is thrown in there a little bit. Just, like, always looking ready for a - you know, a nice day on the yacht or hanging out, lounging by your beach house on the - right on the shore. I don't know what it is. I enjoy it. It brings, like, a warm and cozy feeling to my soul. And it is ridiculous. Like, we could talk about the plot here, but there's not really a plot. Like, they don't even have a book club ostensibly anymore. Like, yes, this is...


HARRIS: ...This is how they became friends. This is - that was, like, their shared love. And in the first film, if I recall correctly, I think they were reading "50 Shades Of Grey" or something.

MEINZER: Yes, they were. Yes, yes. And this time they're reading "The Alchemist." There is a book that is involved very, very much on the fringes, but it's kind of there.

HARRIS: Right. I don't think I ever saw them actually crack open a book, but it does open with a quote from "The Alchemist" about lives being controlled by fate versus free will. And they sort of weave it in a little bit later in the film where they have a whole discussion where the four women happen to be in jail 'cause this is that kind of movie. They're in an Italian jail, and they are, like, each having their moment where they're telling the other character what's wrong with them and why they need to, like, look inside themselves and recognize that they're all powerful women who can be better and grow. So there's that.

But what we came here for is just - again, it is a fantasy. It is this sort of desire to be - even more so than the luxury and the wealth and, like, the free time, I think the friendship is really what kind of holds it together because we can imagine - we want to have those best friends. Even when we're, you know, in our 70s and 80s, we want to still have that. And it sounds like that's kind of what you're feeling too, Kristen.

MEINZER: Oh, absolutely. I also just love the idea of thriving and not necessarily being stuck in my ways and just living in a routine when I'm in my 70s. I love the idea of still changing my mind sometimes, of living life the way I want to. If that means I'm going to be Candice Bergen and make funny wisecracks and have sex with whoever I feel like who I just met 10 minutes ago, yes, why not? You know, if it's going to be Jane Fonda who's a bachelorette her entire life and doesn't give a damn about marriage or kids, why not be that?

There are so many fun things that we can be in the future, and there just aren't that many depictions of those possibilities that are out there. For most of media's history, it's like, you are a grandma, or you are lonely and sad and never leave your house, or you're crotchety. And why not have a great circle of friends traveling the world and having fun together and laughing and dressing fabulously? Why not?

Aisha, you and I are similar in that we probably grew up watching "The Golden Girls" or reruns of "The Golden Girls." And I just got back last month from Golden-Con, the "Golden Girls" Convention in Chicago. I am a real "Golden Girls" fan. Everybody who was there, they grew up feeling like, this could be me someday. It could be about friendship. It could be that the most important relationships in my life are not necessarily a spouse or through parenthood, but this other thing, this chosen family, not the family that we reproduce with or whatnot, but the people who know us and have seen us grow and have stayed by our sides and who have cheered for us, and we get to cheer for them. And we get to dress really well and travel. I mean, what's not to love?

HARRIS: I know. I keep thinking about - you know, this sort of genre seems to have the same combination of actresses in every movie. And, look, I...

MEINZER: There's, like, eight of them. They just swap them out, yeah.

HARRIS: And they just swap them out. And I'm curious if you had to diversify it a bit, just in terms of who else you would like to see besides Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin - who are all wonderful and I love them, but, of course, they are not going to be around forever. And I feel as though every generation, at least for the last 10, 15 years, has had this sort of combination. There's also the male side of things. I remember, obviously, "Grumpy Old Men," which is not quite the same, but you have these two veteran actors now in their older age making movies together, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. And, if I recall correctly, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman did a movie together.

MEINZER: Oh, yes, yes. They did "The Bucket List," yeah.

HARRIS: Yeah, "The Bucket List." So there's been this sort of type of movie that absolutely appeals to older demographics and then, of course, people like us. But, like, are there any sort of, like, other combinations of people you're looking forward to, like, you would love to see thriving in their 70s, 80s comedy, dumb fun, all that stuff?

MEINZER: Yeah. Just give them 10 more years and you know who I really want to see? Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett. Angela Bassett bringing her Angela Bassett-ness to it...

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

MEINZER: You know that she would be fierce. And then Michelle Yeoh just bringing her Michelle Yeoh-ness - I mean, they're too young for it now. But, you know, 10 years, maybe 12 years away...


MEINZER: ...Maybe they could do this. I would love that.

HARRIS: Like, I that would actually be great to see. And they look fabulous.

MEINZER: Oh, my gosh. They look so good.

HARRIS: We need representation across all demographics. So I would love that. I would love to throw in Sheryl Lee Ralph in there.

MEINZER: Oh, yes.

HARRIS: You know, I think that could be really fun.

MEINZER: Can you imagine Cher showing up, too, at some point?

HARRIS: Yes, Cher. Cher, Meryl Streep, like, let's just, like, throw all of these...

MEINZER: Just get them all there. Yeah. They're at a reunion, and things go wild.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, I was going to ask, obviously, they're kind of closer to the ages of Jane Fonda. But, you know, who are the sort of A-list actresses of our time, currently, who we think will be making these movies in like 20, 30 years?

MEINZER: Oh, my gosh. You know, it's so funny. You can never guess who it's going to be. Like, I don't know if anybody watching "Klute" was thinking, oh, yeah, Jane Fonda, she's eventually going to be in a - what do you call - Talbot-chic sort of, like, elderly lady adventure movie.


MEINZER: So, you know, it would be interesting to see, like, who are the Oscar winners now? I mean, could it be Jessica Chastain who was doing it? Could it be that the love interest will be an 80-year-old Timothee Chalamet, you know? I think that would be great.

HARRIS: (Laughter) Yes.

MEINZER: That would be so great.

HARRIS: Some of these women have Oscars. Actually, do they all?

MEINZER: Most of them do. Almost all of them do.


MEINZER: I mean, Mary Steenburgen got her Oscar when she was in her mid-20s. She was just a kid, practically.

HARRIS: Yeah. So I can totally see, like, Jennifer Lawrence and Brie Larson and, like, I don't know, Keke Palmer in a movie...

MEINZER: Oh, yes.

HARRIS: ...Like, 20 or 30 years from now.

MEINZER: Oh, you know who I want? Lizzo. I want Lizzo...

HARRIS: Lizzo.

MEINZER: ...In, like, 50 years. Yes.

HARRIS: Oh, goodness, yes. That would be fantastic.


HARRIS: I would love to see that. So, OK...

MEINZER: That's what I want.

HARRIS: ...We're manifesting this.

MEINZER: Please. We know you're listening, all of you.

HARRIS: I know.

MEINZER: Please, please, Lizzo, Brie Larson, all of you.

HARRIS: And Greta Gerwig can direct it.


HARRIS: It'll be great.


HARRIS: There's just something fun and frothy about this.

MEINZER: You know, sometimes it's fine to want a movie that doesn't have much of a story, but you just want to spend time with the people on screen. And this is definitely that kind of movie. I don't think anyone should have to apologize for that. We can just enjoy spending time with these icons who are just - they're so amazing. I would watch them, frankly, make scrambled eggs or paint a wall, these women.

HARRIS: Yeah, yeah.

MEINZER: It's a delight to see them living their best lives and at least watching their characters take risks and do new things.

HARRIS: Yeah. I agree. I - and I have to say, the audience that I saw this with was comprised of a lot of older women, and they were loving it. They were having the time of their lives. It was just the oohs and the aahs, especially the wedding dress scene.

MEINZER: Oh, yes, yes.

HARRIS: Yeah. So there's a scene where they're shopping for wedding dresses, you know, of course, we have to have this...

MEINZER: It's a beautiful montage that you would expect in this movie to happen. Yes.

HARRIS: Beautiful montage, which also involves the other ladies, not just Jane Fonda's character trying on dresses. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the one that they pick out for Diane Keaton, that she tries on, it's just so her. It's so perfect. It's giving "Annie Hall." It's giving, like, quirky but cute. It's, like, this polka-dot skirt, like, A-line kind of skirt. And then I can't remember what the top - but it just looked very Diane Keaton in the best possible way.

MEINZER: The friend who I saw it with, she was like, I bet that is actually from Diane Keaton's closet, and she just brought it with her on set for this.

HARRIS: Probably.

MEINZER: It's so Diane Keaton.

HARRIS: I mean, this whole movie feels as though it was probably like, all the women brought their own clothes, and they're just like, we want to go to Italy, and we want to spend, you know, a month or two shooting this movie, and we're going to have time. And in between, we're just going to, like, make each other laugh and eat lots of great food and drink a lot of wine. This is what it is.

MEINZER: Oh, my gosh, Aisha, we need to do this. Why didn't we nominate ourselves to be the next icons in the future so we can just go to Italy and do this? Let's just do this ourselves.

HARRIS: Ah, again, a fantasy. Like, this is what I aspire to, to be able to, like, convince my employer to let me romp around Italy or any other place where there's lots of good food and sun and have them pay me to do it.


HARRIS: That's the dream. That is the ultimate dream. Well, tell us what you think about "Book Club: The Next Chapter." Did you find it fun? Do you also aspire to the Talbots-chic aesthetic that we've discussed? I know I hope to be that in, like, 40 or 50 years. We'll see. And find us on Facebook at That brings us to the end of our show. Kristen Meinzer, thanks so much for being here and geeking out about old women living their lives.

MEINZER: Thank you so much, Aisha.

HARRIS: And this episode is produced by Hafsa Fathima and edited by Mike Katzif. Our supervising producer is Jessica Reedy, and Hello Come In provides our theme music. Thanks so much for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Aisha Harris, and we'll see you all tomorrow.


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