BootLeg Betty

BetteBack Review: The First Wive’s Club – Next time, they may want to get a better script

Doylestown Intelligencer
September 20, 1996


With The First Wives Club,’ three Manhattan women — all dumped by their husbands for younger “trophy” catches — provide some laughter through their tears.

With the dream-team casting of Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton and a very timely subject, the PG-rated comedy tries to establish itself as an empowerment picture preaching about the importance of women bonding through friendship and battling spouses who disrespect them.

That’s certainly a nice message, but director Hugh Wilson (•’Guarding less”) goes too far out of his way to transform the wives into victims who whine about their romantic problems rather than taking control of their personal lives.

In addition, it will be difficult for most average American viewers to relate to the three women. Each one has plenty of money, so that the financial strain of being suddenly single and having the resources to take care of a house and children never enters the picture.

Most episodes of “Fantasy Island” seem more reality-based than numerous scenes in “The First Wives Club,” which is suitably silly but never provides a heartfelt base to anchor the comedic elements.

In the story, three former college friends, Brenda (Midler), Elise (Hawn) and Annie (Keaton), get together for drinks after the funeral of an old friend (Stockard Channing) who committed suicide because her wealthy Wall Street husband dumped her for a much
younger woman.. The three, all nearing the half-century mark, soon start relating their own tales of marital woes.

Brenda suffers due to the live-in romance between her estranged husband (Dan Hedaya.) and his hard-bodied girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker), while Elise, an aging actress who belives constant plastic surgery will keep her young, is furious that her producer-husband
(Victor Garber) built his fortune on her toil and then callously dumps her for a young blonde performer (Elizabeth Berkley). For the confidence-lacking Annie, who has been in counseling sessions to save her marriage, life becomes a disaster when her self-serving husband (Stephen Collins) leaves her for their therapist (Marcia Gay Harden).

Once Brenda, Elise and Annie join forces, they decide to get even with all three men and teach them a lesson. Unfortunately, the revenge isn’t so sweet simply because the overblown characters and silly situations never provide much of a kick.

Quite simply, the wives are too good to be true, and the husbands are too bad to be believed.

The only interesting relationship exists between the full-bodied Brenda and her two-timing husband, a person who sees the error of his wandering ways and wants to renew romantic ties with his wife. As far as the characters played by Hawn and Keaton, their marriages seem so flimsy that a viewer can’t help wondering why the women ever married these self-centered losers in the first place.

Ivana Trump, who’s presented as a sort of patron saint of dumped wives, tells the three women, “Don’t get mad, get everything.”

Next time, they may want to get a better script

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