The First Wives Club Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

As the Baby Boomers reach their empty-nest years and have more disposable income to spend on entertainment, you are no doubt going to see movies that reflect the challenges and issues facing this large demographic group, populated with Baby Boomer heroes and heroines. "The First Wives Club" is one of these movies.

This feminist revenge comedy opens up in 1969. Four young women are about to graduate from university and step out into the great wide world. They take one last photograph together before they go their separate ways. Of course, they lose touch with one another. Twenty-seven years later, one of the women (Stockard Channing who does wonders with what little she is given in her role) is distraught-- her stockbroker ex-husband (James Naughton who played the John Connor of the future in "Terminator 2") has just 'acquired' a trophy wife (Heather Locklear in a cameo), a young bimbo. She climbs onto the balcony, and leaps to her death.

In Hollywood, women only have three ages: babe, district attorney, and 'Driving Miss Daisy'.

This suicide brings together the other three women. Elise (Goldie Hawn) is an aging movie queen who despite her plastic-surgery enhanced stunning good looks, begs her plastic surgeon to pump more collagen in her lips since she hasn't had a role in the past eighteen months. Her husband (Victor Garber) became a producer because of her connections, and is now filing for divorce, demanding half her assets and a monthly stipend, and he has a new actress girlfriend, a young bimbo who can't act (Elizabeth Berkley of "Showgirls"-- how appropriate!).

Brenda (Bette Midler) is the abrasive battle-axe that speaks her mind. She helped her husband Morty (Dan Hedaya) build a chain of electronics stores, only to be repaid by being dumped for a young bimbo (Sarah Jessica Parker) who can't think (do you see a pattern forming?).

Finally, Annie (Diane Keaton) is the neurotic, wishy-washy, and overly-apologetic character to balance out the other two. She has delusions that her husband Erin, who owns an advertising agency, is about to reconcile with her after a lengthy separation. She and her husband see the same therapist, Leslie (Marcia Gay Harden), and it doesn't take much to figure what happens.

Their respective situations reach a point where each can no longer tolerate being trashed by their selfish and manipulative ex-husbands, and together, they form "The First Wives Club". They vow to get revenge and pool their resources and connections (Maggie Smith, Bronson Pinchot) to pull off elaborate schemes.

Remember ladies, don't get even... get everything!

This movie has a great premise that has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it came across very facetiously flat, without the necessary exposition that would do the subject matter justice (and I'm not saying that just because I'm a man). This movie went on like 'women's issues lite', with mildly poignant moments designed to evoke sympathy for the three women, sandwiched between slapstick sitcom moments that go for cheap laughs. It smacked of commercialism, from Annie's daughter suddenly announcing that she's a lesbian (twice), to the cameos by Ivana Trump and Kathie Lee Gifford, to the dinner party scene at the close of the movie that wrapped up several loose threads a little too neatly. Furthermore, everything that happens in the story is a little too convenient (Brenda's uncle happens to be in the Mafia; Elise happens to have a few million dollars lying around; Erin hires his daughter, who hates him, a little too quickly; etc.), making FWC more like a fairy-tale. Even if it is too be judged as a contemporary fairy-tale, it also fails to hit the mark with its mostly antagonistic narrative and a script that seems to revolve around put-downs (imagine "Cinderella" ending with Cinderella extorting her older step-sisters).

"The First Wives Club" was entertaining, especially Goldie Hawn's performance, but overall, it was not particularly memorable. There are certainly movies out there that have dealt with the subject matter of empowered women in a more memorable and meaningful way, such as "Dolores Claiborne", "Secrets & Lies", "Antonia's Line" or "Three Colors: Blue", and those I would recommend over this any day (and I'm not just saying that because I'm a man).

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