I took the movie tickets to see Book Club because I thought it would help win some brownie points with my mum after our latest argument about her new boyfriend. She likes Jane Fonda and movies with happy endings and choc bombs even though she’s lactose intolerant. I like Candace Bergen and movies about books and choc bombs, so it seemed like a sweet deal for a Sunday night in Midland.

Book Club is not about books. This movie is Sex and the City, 30 plus years on, and it’s as problematic as the original. No one has learned anything and – despite being billed as a movie about older women – it’s still all about men. The four women played by jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candace Bergen and Mary Steenburgen – women so iconic I can’t actually remember their character names – first joined together as a book club to read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying in the 70’s, and now are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. The only thing I take from this is that over the ensuing years they have read nothing more challenging than Jodi Picoult novels to reach the emotional (not to mention literary) maturity they are at in this movie.

Despite the absence of it on our screens, people over fifty are having sex.  In fact, the fastest growing demographic for sexually transmitted infections is the over fifty age bracket. This movie had the potential to bring four tremendously talented and sexy women together in a portrayal of authentic and experienced sexuality. What we get instead is a hot mess of relationship fails.

No one talks to each other in this movie in any meaningful way. Jane Fonda gets all the flak from the others for having sex without intimacy, but really none of the others have anything close to intimacy with their partners past or present. Mary Steenburgen has been married to her husband for 30 years, and instead of talking to him about her sexual desires she slips a Viagra into his drink at a bar. I snort-laughed hysterically at his unwanted erection as it was paraded in front of a police officer – and suddenly stopped as I realized I was laughing at the victim of sexual assault.

Ironically, Candace Bergen plays a federal judge who has probably sent sexual assault perpetrators down for less. This fact is played down when it comes to dating men. She admits to her profession shamefully, and there’s an underlying assumption that this will intimidate the tax accountant she later shags on the back seat of her car. At least she gets some – hot car sex is something Diane Keaton doesn’t have to worry about. She plays a 70 year old neurotic mess with a magic vagina that lures in an unsuspecting pilot with a ranch in Arizona, and then runs away in tears before any actual sex happens.

I wanted to see a movie with four older women that would make me glad for my future. but what I got was a glimpse into my past, when it was ok not to talk about my sexual and emotional needs with a partner because I didn’t know any better. It did, at least, enable my mum and I to have a genuine conversation about relationships – and the importance of using condoms with her new boyfriend, who still sucks.

Go and see this movie only if you want to leave feeling lobotomized.

2 stars (all for Candace and Erica Jong)

Rebecca Bowman