BetteBack Review – Saturday, January 14,1989: Beaches

The Winchester Star
Midler, Hershey Pass Test of Time In ‘Beaches‘ Film
Saturday, January 14,1989

Like the little girls in “Imitation of Life,” who were white and black, C.C. Bloom and Hillary Whitney meet on the boardwalked beach in “Beaches.” They’re 11.

C.C. is Jewish, an aggressively sparkling child star in an Atlantic City revue obviously modeled on Tony Grants old “Stars of Tomorrow” shows at Steel Pier.

Hillary is a WASP princess to whom things will come easily–money, a law degree, jobs and an 8-by-10-glossy husband.

The girls are together only for a few minutes, but after C.C. heads back to her native Bronx to push, push, push into show business and Hillary heads for a life among the horsey set in San Francisco, they correspond for years as best friends.

Throughout “Beaches” we get flashbacks from their adolescence and early adulthood as the now-40ish C.C. (Bette Midler) rushes up the Ca l i fornia coast f r om the Hollywood Bowl to Frisco upon learning something has happened to Hillary (Barbara Hershey).

By the time C.C. arrives, we know where the women have been and what their friendship has sustained. We’ve watched their closeness vacillate under the pressures of growing up and apart.

There’s a lot. of “The Turning Point” here, with women pals reviewing and reconciling their misspent aspirations, and “Terms of Endearment,” in which bonding transcends differences in times of crisis.

“Beaches” is full of f ami l i ar parts, but it succeeds to the extent it does because of another good performance by Hershey, continuing her roll (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Hoosiers,” “Shy People,” “A World Apart ” ), and an outstanding one by Midler, full of brass and sass and open wounds, and a script by Mary Agnes Donoghue ( from Iris Rainer Dart‘s novel) that understands how desperately some people need to be understood.

C.C. is a vulgar plugger, with jewelry that looks like a Viking’s spoils. Hillary is aloof, unmussed, pampered.

The men here are a lot less colorf u l, but competent: John Heard as an a v a r t – g a r de
d i r e c t or  b o th women love; James Read as the next man in Hillary’s l i f e; Spalding Gray as the man in C.C.’s.

More enjoyable, and certainly well cast, is Lainie Kazan, who long ago was Barbra Streisand‘s standby in Broadway’s “Funny Girl.” Here she plays C.C.’s mother, coming as close as anyone could to embodying Midler’s style and attributes.

The film never says as much as it seems to intend about the nature of freedom, but it works in other ways. The plot galumphs through the years the way hundreds of old movies did, disclosing through bits, of exposition the changes during the intervening years. C.C., for example, skips directly from her first big Broadway break to a point where, she has become such a pain in the neck that her movie career is in ruins. Marriages begin and end with token scenes.

But I like that in a movie, especially when it works as well as it does in this movie. I’ve missed those life-spanning transitions, and; the performances of Midler ( a n d, Mayim Bialik as C.C. at 11) a n d; Hershey (and Marcie Leeds as Hillary at 11), supply a great deal of what’s missing through their interpretations.

“Beaches” is a moderately intelligent look at a heartfelt relationship, and the reality is that that alone will be enough to scare off–or put off–some male moviegoers. They’ll be missing one of the season’s stronger entertainments. “Beaches ” is moving without being depressing.

Midler sings several songs, including the two of the best I’ve heard in a movie in a long time: “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” by R a n d y N e w m a n a nd ” W i nd Beneath My Wings” by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar.

It’s a waste of today’s most gifted singer-actresses–including Midler, Streisand, Petula Clark and Olivia Newton-John–that more pictures aren’t made to showcase their musical assets. Director Garry Marshall (“Nothing in Common,” “The Flamingo Kid“) has the good sense to use those talents well.

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