And it will appeal to fans of the original movie.
The 1988 film struck such a powerful chord with women that they went to see it with their girlfriends, leaving behind husbands and boyfriends who just didn’t get why they wanted to sob for two hours. Starring a hilariously brassy Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey (and her lips), the film raked in $57 million at the box office and gave Midler one of her biggest hits, the treacly “Wind Beneath My Wings” (the Grammy choice for Song of the Year).
Lifetime’s “Beaches,” directed with an affectionate eye by Allison Anders (“Gas Food Lodging”), celebrates the ups and downs of female friendship. Shot for shot, the film is nearly a duplicate, using the same character names and truncating only a section where the characters — C.C. Bloom (Idina Menzel) and Whitney Hillary (Nia Long) — are separated. Executive producer Allison Greenspan and her screenwriter, Nicole Beckwith, have made necessary technological updates in terms of how information is shared between friends. Nia Long (“The Best Man”) takes on the Hershey role, the doomed rich girl with the congenital disease. Wisely, race is never mentioned in the movie, giving it a more contemporary feel, but the same old heartstrings are pulled when C.C. learns that her oldest friend has only a few months to live.
Long gets to do more in the movie than just die — unlike the original. She comes across as the antithesis to C.C.’s mercurial entertainer, a corporate lawyer who prefers to do pro bono work. Menzel gives the film its verve as the tenacious C.C., whose trajectory from auditions for dog food commercials to Bar Mitzvah singer to pop superstardom offers welcome comic relief. Her voice, while less brassy than Midler’s, has a clarity and power all its own.
With all these improvements, though, “Beaches” is still a soap. The characters are drawn from the pretty/ugly dichotomy that used to work wonders in “women’s pictures” of the 1940s. “You just roll out of bed and life falls into place for you. I have to work at everything,” says the talented (but not beautiful) C.C.
When C.C. and Whitney predictably fight over the same man, your eyes may roll. And that’s a good reflex. While you may not mind revisiting “Beaches,” you may not feel the same emotions washing over you — because you already know the story.