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First Wives Club

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: First Wives Club

Starring: Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn
Director: Hugh Wilson
Rated: PG
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: September 1996
Genre: Comedy

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

I was a minority for the opening night rush hour showing of THE FIRST WIVES CLUB. Affirmative action on the part of most middle aged mothers couldn't get most teenage guys into the theater, but I allowed myself to be dragged along to see this one because the only other movie opening was the Bruce Willis western LAST MAN STANDING and I didn't want to be the first or last man standing in line for that.

THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, as expected, abounds in feminine mid-life crisis humor. If movies were paired off, THE FIRST WIVES CLUB would be married to CITY SLICKERS, its masculine counterpart. Both have an abundance of laugh-out-loud lines and physical comedy, although the female version isn't quite on par with the 1991 Billy Crystal classic. Beneath the comedy, CITY SLICKERS had a poignant seriousness about friendship and aging that THE FIRST WIVES CLUB tries harder to achieve but never quite does.

Still, the teamup of Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton makes for an amazing comic partnership. Even though the combined age on those three has to be over 150, they're still in top form. Midler is the spurned Jewish woman whose rich husband (Dan Hedaya) has left her for Sarah Jessica Parker. Hawn is the washed-out actress who relies on cosmetic surgery -- particularly collagen injections that leave her looking like Lips Manlis from DICK TRACY -- to stay young. Keaton's character is the neurotic type who spends most of her time on her therapist's couch, trying to stay optimistic about her failing marriage. Her contribution to the movie seems like ANNIE HALL: TWENTY YEARS LATER, an inevitable comparison since her character's name actually is Annie.

The three were inseparable friends in college, but have proven separable in the almost thirty years since. They reunite at the funeral of a fourth friend who committed suicide after being dumped by her husband for a younger woman and, after a drunken lunch of several hours, realize they're all three in the same boat. Midler's got Sarah Jessica to contend with, Hawn's movie producer husband is currently with Elizabeth "Jessie Spano" Berkeley and Keaton soon finds out her husband is getting it on with the therapist.

Having this much in common, they decide to form an informal organization to help each other out. Remembering the title of the movie, they name it THE FIRST WIVES CLUB. What follows is a series of juvenile pranks and blackmail scams on the bastard husbands, including the most memorable scene of the movie, in which the three of them break into Hedaya's penthouse and must make a hasty exit in the window washer's cart when he and Parker return.

The movie itself is predictable, juvenile and all that, but I liked it anyway and so did the predominantly fortysomething audience I saw it with, including my mom, who was lobbying for a four-star rating. I recognized enough flaws to not be completely enthralled in the movie, and I certainly couldn't identify with being dumped for a younger woman (give me a few years on that), but when something is as funny as THE FIRST WIVES CLUB is, I can overlook the brief but forced drama and contrived sitcom recycling.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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