The First Wives Club Movie Review

The biggest crowd-pleaser of the year is upon us -- the powerhouse trio of Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton foisting their womanness on us with a vengeance. Sure to revive the debate over whether films like this are "man hating," The First Wives Club is, in reality, a harmless big screen sitcom that actually manages to appeal to a large audience.

Rambling through its first 30 minutes with no real direction, The First Wives Club eventually turns into a story about three old friends who want to exact vengeance on their wayward ex-husbands. Elise (Hawn) is an aging movie star, obsessed, as most aging movie stars are, about her looks. Brenda (Midler) is a bitter ex-housewife who loves her son and bemoans her lack of funds to support him -- and hasn't changed her hair since 1969. Annie (Keaton) is basically a middle-aged version of Annie Hall, only now she has a lesbian daughter and an intrusive mother, and Woody Allen is nowhere to be seen.

The most visible of the ex-husbands is Brenda's estranged hubby Morty (Dan Hedaya), an electronics kingpin who has moved on to the greener pastures of Shelly (Sarah Jessica Parker). He becomes the centerpiece of an intricate scam the women put together to basically drive the three husbands to madness, ruin, and poverty.

Hey! It's a comedy!

I must admit, that for all its middle-aged woman-bent humor, The First Wives Club still managed to be amusing to this 25 year-old man, mainly due to some really fine acting, good jokes, and a fresh story. Keaton is the best, as usual, and Hawn also does a fine job. Desperately trying to steal the show (and ending up as the only wife who I didn't really care about) is Midler. But when was the last time Midler played a character who wasn't an overbearing loudmouth?

It's also a manipulative little film -- pulling those heart strings about as hard as you can without jumping out of the comedy genre. There are loads of cameos -- the only person they forgot was Charles Nelson Reilly. Basically, everything works to give Wives a sitcom feel (I wouldn't be surprised if they adapted it next season...). Just to seal the issue, they even put Bronson Pinchot in a supporting role. (Ironic fact: almost everyone behind the scenes of the film (including the director, screenwriter, and producer) is male.)

Parting words of advice: Guys, prepare yourselves to be dragged to the movie theater by your wife or girlfriend. Ladies, please don't get any bright ideas.

Rating the film is almost impossible. Here's my best cut at it:

If you're a woman: [][][][]If you're a divorcee: [][][][][]If you're a bitter divorcee: [][][][][]

On its merits: [][][][]

Run, Goldie! Run!


The First Wives Club Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 1996


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