Book Club might be the most important comedy of 2018. Set for release on May 18, the film centers on four women in their 60s who read Fifty Shades of Grey for their monthly book club. While the novel is not their usual cup of tea, reading the notoriously steamy story makes them realize their best years could still be ahead of them.

While Book Club has elements of your typical studio comedy, it’s actually much more than that. There’s a big reason: four major actors are given a chance to shine. With Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen playing the lead roles, Book Club gives Hollywood icons a chance to lead a major new movie — something they once did on the regular.

[Credit: Paramount Pictures]

Today, it’s rare to find a major Hollywood film led by an actress over 50, let alone four women over 50. While this has been a problem for a while, it seems to get more apparent each year. As major studios produce films constantly oriented around young characters, many female veterans are recruited to play the parental roles. Some of these characters may be layered, but they’re hardly the deep, multi-dimensional roles that the great women of Hollywood portrayed in their younger days. There’s simply a significant lack of roles for women in this age group.

The problem isn’t quite as severe for male veterans. Actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liam Neeson and Dolph Lundgren have found a place in action thrillers that often rely on aging, disgruntled father figures. That approach doesn’t seem to have filtered through for women, many of whom would be more than capable of pulling it off.

In recent years, many female icons have turned to television for meatier roles. Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett delivered some of their best work in FX’s American Horror Story, while Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern did the same in HBO’s Big Little Lies. As a result, Lange, Bates, Kidman and Dern all won Emmys for their performances.

This not only proves that their acting ability is still finely honed; it highlights the severe lack of film roles. While these women do continue to appear in movies, it is television that offers the opportunity to portray strong, independent and complex protagonists that guide their stories.

[Credit: Paramount Pictures]

While Book Club may not seem like it on the surface, it’s release is vitally important to the future (and the past) of Hollywood. This isn’t a TV film or an independent outing; it’s a major studio release. And it could very well mark the beginning of a new era for veteran actresses, paving the way for more films that shine the spotlight on women of a similar age. Moreover, the characters highlight that middle-aged women still have lives outside of parental roles, which is something that also applies to the situation in Hollywood as well.

Giving four tenured actresses top billing is a major step in right direction. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen are once again leading ladies in this movie, and rightly so. Age is just a number, and it should not restrict any well-respected actor. And Book Club is the first step to making sure that we see plenty more of these beloved veterans leading films in the future, like they once did.

Book Club hits theaters on May 18, 2018.