Film Scouts Reviews

"The First Wives Club"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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September 13, 1996

This is going to be hit even if the only people who go are women who have been dumped for a younger woman. This is such a common experience for Baby Boomers hitting middle age that "First Wives Club" could easily have been a cliché-driven bit of drivel. But Olivia Goldsmith's's novel was such a huge national best-seller that director Hugh Wilson heard about it from his high school English teacher, Ellen Callahan. When he was offered the script, his wife pushed for him to do it. Nice to know there are actually guys in Hollywood who listen to women!

A few more might follow that example after seeing the revenge that Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn wreak upon their exes. Each must contend with being replaced by designer bodies Sarah Jessica Parker, Marcia Gay Harden, and Elizabeth Berkley, respectively. While husbands Dan Hedaya, Stephen Collins, and Victor Garber are, as my Dad would say, 'living the life of Riley', the bill comes due as their former wives discover that revenge and justice just aren't sweet enough. In the magical hands of screenwriter Robert Harling, who penned "Steel Magnolias", "First Wives Club" gives its stars an opportunity to shine. Once college friends, they are brought together by their fourth roommate's suicide. Stockard Channing. in an un-billed cameo. starts the ball rolling toward poignancy without sentimentality as she bids farewell to the young lady on the stairmaster and to the world. If she is classic, then how can I adequately describe Maggie Smith's performance as Gunilla Goldberg, the grand dame of the New York divorcees? Smith's comic timing rivals that of Midler, Hawn, and Keaton, but with just the right touch of British class.

There is nothing to complain about in this comic masterpiece, except that I would have like to have seen more of Marcia Gay Harden. Oh, and just wait for the cameos by Gloria Steinem, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Ivana Trump! "First Wives Club" is a complete delight. You'll feel left out if you don't go, but plan on seeing it twice to catch all the dialogue, because chances are with all the laughter you'll miss some of it. Rated PG.

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