BetteBack Review September 20, 1996: First Wive’s Club – Good script makes story of 3 wronged women even better

Daily Herald Suburban Chicago
September 20, 1996


If the Curse of the Stupefying Narrator severely maims Bruce Willis‘ action drama “Last Man Standing,” it only deals a flesh wound to the zany comedy “First Wives Club.”

Annie Paradisee, played by Diane Keaton, comments on the obvious and generally narrates “First Wives Club” as if the story belonged to her.

This proves to be an awkward and annoying narrative crutch, given that the story belongs equally to three women, college pals reunited two decades down the road to strike a blow against selfish and immature ex-husbands.

Annie has been going through difficult times with her businessman husband Aaron (Stephen Collins). A sacrificing pleaser, she lets everyone use her as a doormat, even her domineering, rose-coloredglasses-wearing mother (Eileen Heckart), who tells Annie, “You’re very happy. You don’t need self esteem!”

B r e n d a , played by Bette Midler, has been dumped by her longtime husband Morty (Dan Hedaya), a successful salesman who has traded Brenda in for a faster, smaller (but not necessarily cheaper or better) model named Shelly (Sarah Jessica Parker).

Elise Elliot (Goldie Hawn), a Sharon Stone-like movie star with a reconstituted physique even Cher would admire, finds that her director husband Bill (Victor Garber) has replaced her with a younger leading lady (“Showgirls” star Elizabeth Berkeley), not just in an upcoming movie, but in their personal lives.

The three women have lost touch with each other since college, until a fourth member-of. their group (an uncredited cameo by.Stockard Channing) performs a jack-knife off her expensive high-rise apartment.

As the three plot their revenge, the women undergo their own painful journeys to selfawareness as they force each other to drop their facades and learn to accept themselves, their strengths and their limitations.

In “Big Chill” style, the .three friends reunite at the funeral where they soon recognize that if they don’t hang together, they’ll all be hung out to dry separately.

Their ensuing shenanigans do for lousy^ middle-aged ex-husbands what “Nine to Five”.did for lousy, middle-management executives

With a mix of pithy one-liners, broad physical comedy and a theme of female unity, “First Wives Club” (based on the best seller by Olivia Goldsmith) crackles with froth-and fun.

Screenwriter Robert Harling, except for the misjudgment of ‘ using a superfluous narrator, hammers together a smart and smarting script that goes far beyond just a clever tale of revenge engineered by a trio of wronged women.

The gleeful catfights between the three stars, easily the most entertaining portions of “First Wives Club,” also become.the most poignant..

As the three plot their revenge (“It’s not revenge,” Annie argues, “I’m talking about justice!”), the women undergo their own painful journeys to selfawareness as they force each other to drop their facades and learn to accept themselves, their strengths and their limitations.

“I’m the nice one here!” Annie shrieks in denial after she loses control and lets her real anger show through her placid exterior. “I’m not like this!”

Maggie Smith helps the women out as the beguiling socialite Guhilla Goldberg. Jennifer Dundas plays Annie’s daughter Chris, a full-throttle lesbian who can’t wait to spring news of her sexual preference to the conservative dad she hates.

Finally, Bronson Pinchot1 s interior decorator Duarto puts a fine comic finish on a cast that masterminds a daring heist of Morty’s tax records.

“This is just like ‘Mission: Impossible’!” Brenda exclaims.

Hey, Brenda shouldn t put her own-movie down like-that

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