Sunday, September 22, 2013

The First Wives Club (1996)

Seen: On my laptop, streamed from netflix instant.

You all know I love movies about sassy ladies hanging out, and if a movie can offer three dynamite leads and a heaping spoonful of misandry in addition, all the better! I'd seen The First Wives Club here and there on tv, but didn't remember it very well, so this kind of felt like a first-time viewing. The story begins with four fun-loving ladies who were best friends in college but lost touch as they got older. When one of them (Stockard Channing) unexpectedly kills herself and sends a note to the other three, they come together again in grief and solidarity. All are experiencing relationship troubles- Elise (Goldie Hawn), an aging sexpot actress, is divorcing her opportunistic producer husband, Annie (Diane Keaton), once a successful businesswoman, is separating from her manipulative husband but in denial about their issues, and Brenda (Bette Midler), a struggling assistant interior decorator, is trying to gain more financial support for her son from her wealthy, combative ex-husband. After re-affirming their strong bond of friendship, the ladies realize they're stronger together and decide to collectively take action against their asshole exes, ultimately fighting for women everywhere who have been screwed over by their partners.

I remembered this movie as being kind of frivolous and cheesy- and it certainly does have some over the top moments- but it's also a surprisingly touching comedy. The specters of age, regret, and loss hang over the whole proceedings, no matter how silly things get, as these women attempt to avoid a fate like their friend Cynthia, whose suicide was linked to her own unhappy marriage and missed opportunities. While it's not an especially realistic story, the issues are relatable and important to explore in such a mainstream film. Yes, most of the women in this film are affected strongly by the men in their lives (usually for the worse) but ultimately the focus shifts to more solidarity/sisterhood-type themes, and the characters lift themselves up without much assistance from men (except some monetary benefits). So it's a good message, and also has friendship! No people of color though, like literally zero. Not even extras, really. Were there only white people in New York City in 1996? Have I suppressed this information?

Anyway, mostly The First Wives Club is just downright enjoyable. The three leads are SO good and I could just watch them sit around and hang out all day. They're hilarious and goofy but also they all felt like real people, like maybe this will kind of be me and my friends when we get older? Minus the plastic surgery though, I expect. The supporting cast is great as well, with a bunch of dopey dudes as the exes and a wonderfully exaggerated turn from Sarah Jessica Parker as a cluelessly unsophisticated "younger woman" type. Also: DAME Maggie Smith! And she's hilarious! The script is punchy, and balances the comedy and drama fairly well, though I think it had too much of a prelude- I wanted the revenge to start sooner! Also I've come to really appreciate how this movie is so anti-men. There's even a sarcastic lesbian character (Annie's daughter) who helps take revenge against her pig of a dad, because fuck men! Yeah!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I think any movie with ladies- especially older ladies- hanging out would be appropriate. Like, the kind of movies my mom watches. I haven't seen it yet but I know Steel Magnolias was written by the same screenwriter so I bet that's a good fit. Nine to Five would be a great pairing with its revenge theme, and I feel like a Nicole Holofcener movie might be good too for the lady relationships.

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