They take all the terrible thoughts we suppress in the name of being charitable, stoic, brave, and enduring, dip them in acid, and hurl them into the audience.

THE FIRST WIVES CLUB

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


At last, some laughs. The humor of "The First Wives Club," missiles from the mouths of Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn, a fusillade of observations on the state of middle-aged women who have been dumped for younger, newer goods, explodes on the screen. So sharp is their delivery that even the film's many flaws vanish--almost.

About two-thirds of the way through, the writers lose their steam and let the movie flounder while they try to wrap up the threads of their plot--an entirely unnecessary effort given the good time the audience is having without any plot at all.

During this lull, the actors tilt from conversational bull's-eyes to slapstick--too much mugging. In defense of the writers, it's doubtful that anyone could have kept up the initial pace of the parries that had the theater rolling with laughter. And to their credit, they recover for a stylish ending.

Three college pals reunite at the funeral of a fourth and trade tales of marital woe over drinks. All have been sent over the side by preening husbands looking for a young thing to flatter them, someone who knows them not as they are, but how they manage to appear to be. Suddenly, the men sport spiffy clothes, new hairstyles, an earring, a sports car, an ornament on the arm--it's a male face-lift without the scalpel.

Movie star Elise (Goldie Hawn), whose husband has taken up with an anorexic plastic doll on the make, has one foot in the 70s, courtesy of plastic surgery, and one in the 90s, courtesy of a young screenwriter who offers her the "grotesque mother" role in his horror film. When her doctor responds to her fears about finding a new lover by saying, "A woman your age has a better chance of getting slaughtered by a psychopath," and refuses to inject more silicone in her lips, she barks, "Fill 'em up!"

Brenda (Bette Midler), "a woman with her own aisle in the supermarket," uses her mouth as an assault weapon to spray venom about husband Morty's immersion in the trappings of male menopause.

Annie (Diane Keaton), playing the devoted wife who erased herself along the way, is searching in vain for her own identity. No matter what the circumstances, an apology is always the first thing out of her mouth. When her friends coax her to the point of responding from strength, she manages, after a few false starts, to burst forth with real rage.

If all this sounds tame on the page, believe that, in the theater, Hawn, Midler, and Keaton, the three old pros, deliver the icy lines with the energy of a tornado. The writers have given them plenty to deliver. They take all the terrible thoughts we suppress in the name of being charitable, stoic, brave, and enduring, dip them in acid, and hurl them into the audience. Judging from the laughter, these heat-seeking missiles are finding their targets.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 495
Studio : Paramount
Rating : PG
Running Time: 1h40m


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