What this Movie Says about Love After 60

What’s not to like about a movie – “Book Club” -- starring Candace Bergen, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen? It can be summed up in three “s” words.

First, stereotype. Each of the actors plays a "type" of woman who most of us don't know in real life and they conveniently happen to be longtime friends. A federal judge whose husband has left her for a younger woman; a business mogul who runs a hotel empire and who has all the men she could ever want, but no one she can really love; a woman who makes her living as some kind of successful chef (it’s all kind of vague) and whose husband is dealing with “performance” issues; and a woman whose daughters are trying to run her life now that she’s a widow. Wow – they cover all the issues that supposedly go with getting older and it just takes four old friends to do it.

Second, silly. The premise is that these intelligent, successful women all become titillated by the book “50 Shades of Grey” and as a result, change their lives. All Jane Fonda, the hotel mogul, really wants to be happy is someone who will tickle her arms. I’m not kidding.

Third, sad. A movie that uses stereotypes to make mature women look silly is just sad.

And how about the messages this movie sends out into the world? We asked Susan Brumer, LCSW, who is a successful social worker, grad school teacher, and a baby boomer, to give us her impressions.

As a 60-something, divorced, professional woman, the movie “Book Club” called out to me like a whistle to a dog. When my good friend offered to treat me, I said yes to what I thought would be a win-win matinee. I thought it would be a nice Saturday afternoon snack with no calories. I went running to the theater with eyes wide open ready to view some eye candy; e.g. Don Johnson and Andy Garcia.  I love romantic comedies and admire the four very talented female actors.  So, what could go wrong you ask?

The “Book Club” is Hollywood’s version of romance after 60.   The film starts out humorous, lots of laughing out loud. The middle is romantic if “Fifty Shades of Gray” jump starts your 60+ libido. The end left me thinking maybe a caloric treat of ice cream would have left a better taste in my mouth and mind.

Let me digress for a moment. I teach graduate school and as I watched this movie I thought about one of my students who recently told me that he writes movies as well as attends USC.  He shared his thoughts with me about romance on the screen and that he believes Hollywood sends implicit messages that relationships are conflictual and always end.  He connected the psychological messages Hollywood sends to his generation and their inability to make commitments and become intimate. This millennial perspective is quite interesting to a woman from the baby boomer generation who received the very explicit message that if you have the right goods you will live happily ever after.

When I was in graduate school Hollywood’s movies portrayed young, thin, beautiful girls get the gorgeous rich men.  The man will chase you and as soon as you stop running he will propose marriage and you know how it ends.   Now 40+ years later Hollywood is giving the 60+ generation the same old message.  This movie had the thin beautiful “older” women catch the gorgeous, rich men their age.  They fall in love and …… This movie also tells us the attractive, intelligent but “chubby” older women are only desired by the less desirable men.  If the chubby woman in this movie does not settle for what she deserves then she will go back to eating ice cream and cuddling with her cat.

This movie is a fantasy flick. The reality of being over 60 and single is not humorous or romantic.  Single men 60+ were brain washed by the Hollywood image of their leading ladies.  They still only want the tall, thin, beautiful “young” women. Most of the men over 60 date women under 40.  The female actors in this movie are too old for the eye candy to even share any sugar.  Yes, they can meet a man who is age appropriate, but they are not rich and handsome.  They are men looking for “a nurse with a purse”.  OK so let me stop sounding like a jaded woman.  The premise, actors and acting in the “Book Club” were excellent.  I would have preferred a romantic comedy that ended realistically and made me laugh, cry and think.  This movie only made me want to cuddle the cat, and eat ice-cream. The end!!!


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