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Women of +First Wives Club+ keep their men hopping

Sept. 27, 1996

Women of 'First Wives Club' keep their men hopping

The First Wives Club

Director: Hugh Wilson

Starring: Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton

Review: ***1/2 (out of ****)

Showing at: Carmike Square Six Theaters

By Jim Kendrick

Lariat Staff Writer

It's an unfortunate fact of life that contemporary American society views the aging of men and women differently: men become distinguished while women just become old.

This unfair aspect of life is the heart of 'The First Wives Club,' where three women in their mid-forties decide they will not be so easily cast aside by their husbands and replaced with skinny, buxom twenty-five-year-old girls.

As played by Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton, they are well-drawn, likable characters who have been wronged in life by their men.

It's easy to get the idea that they are interchangeable because they share a common woe in life, but the script sharply defines each women in her own terms, and this allows them to play off each other for wonderful comic and emotional effect.

Midler is a slightly overweight Jewish housewife who probably talks a little too much and is always trying to be lovey with her son, who is 13 years old and at the age where he doesn't want a mom.

Hawn is a vain, heavy-drinking, once-glamorous movie actress who is trying desperately to defy the laws of time with face-lifts while constantly complaining to her plastic surgeon (Rob Reiner in one of the film's many gag cameo appearances) that there are only three roles in Hollywood for women: babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.

Keaton is the voice of the reason among the three, but she suffers from an extreme lack of decision-making abilities and self-esteem, displayed in her inability to accept that her separation from her husband is a sign of marital problems.

The film starts with a flashback to the women on their college graduation day in 1969, where they vowed to always stick together and be there for one another.

Time passes and they grow apart. Then, when the fourth member of their college clique (played in a cameo by Stockard Channing) kills herself because her tycoon husband left her for a younger woman (none other than Heather Locklear), the three women see they are all in the same situation and decide to form 'The First Wives Club.'

At first they don't know what to do. All they know is that they don't want revenge; they want justice. This point is pounded home several times so the audience knows these women aren't out just to get even for their own smug self-satisfaction.

Justice, on the other hand, is something entirely different. With the plan they concoct and execute in precision detail using every resource they have, they give their husbands what they deserve and also pave the way for the protection of other women in their predicament.

Midler, Hawn and Keaton make a surprisingly strong comedy trio. They are given all the support they need by Dan Hedaya, Victor Garber, and Stephen Collins as their ex-husbands.

The film portrays the men as confused, middle-aged crazies who are so insecure, they have to fall into the arms of young bimbos (played with air-headed relish by Sarah Jessica Parker and Elizabeth Berkley of Showgirls) in order to feel good about themselves.

The real key to the film is that the women always have the power, whether young or old. The men may have the big offices, but they are always under the thumb of their women, bimbos or not.

The film is quick to point out that the older women are intellectually and emotionally superior to those who take their places.

The cat fights between the older and younger generations are never so good as when Midler sees Parker in the mall trying on a skin-tight black dress and says, 'Oh, I see the bulimia is paying off.'

The First Wives Club is filled with such comic moments that play off the eternal jokes associated with young versus old, maturity versus youth.

In the end, the maturity wins out as it should, but not without a fight. And the fight is what is so much fun to watch.

Copyright © 1996 The Lariat

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