The First Wives Club

on September 20, 1996 by Christine James
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   A new take on "Nine to Five" with Bette Midler in Lily Tomlin's role, Diane Keaton in Jane Fonda's and Goldie Hawn as a vain, alcoholic Dolly Parton, "The First Wives Club" hits the target with its intended audience demo--i.e., women--with its themes of sisterhood and sweet revenge against men (which recently worked so well for "Waiting to Exhale"). In this buoyant comedy, based on the best-selling novel by Olivia Goldsmith, three former college pals who've lost touch with each other reunite after 25 years. After the funeral of the leader (Stockard Channing) of what originally was a foursome--the woman committed suicide when her husband left her for a younger woman--the remaining members of the once-inseparable quartet begin catching up. They discover they've all become victims of their selfish husbands, who have dumped them for shallow but beautiful nymphettes. The women unite in their common cause: Destroy the husbands!
   While dishing it out to their detestable ex-mates, the women also experience personal breakthroughs and revelations, and they begin to overcome their dysfunctions and insecurities. The film's tone is kept light and funny, never lingering on the tragic moments long enough to bring the audience down, yet still driving home an important message about emotional fragility, the cruel consequences of insensitivity, and the vital need to be there for one another. There are lots of laughs here and many fun moments of vindication well-relished by Midler, Hawn and Keaton, although the story and relationships are fairly formulaic. You can definitely see the bonding-over-a-food-orgy scene and the revenge montage set to the tune of "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves" coming around Fifth Avenue. Starring Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton. Directed by Hugh Wilson. Written by Robert Harling. Produced by Scott Rudin. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG for thematic elements, some mild language and sensuality. Running time: 105 min
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