The First Wives Club

September 20th, 1996


more trailers The First Wives Club

Still of Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler in The First Wives ClubStill of Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler in The First Wives ClubBette Midler at event of The First Wives ClubStill of Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler in The First Wives ClubStill of Dan Hedaya, Victor Garber and Stephen Collins in The First Wives ClubStill of Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler in The First Wives Club

Reunited by the death of a college friend, three divorced women seek revenge on the husbands who left them for younger women.

Release Year: 1996

Rating: 5.7/10 (17,675 voted)

Critic's Score: 58/100

Director: Hugh Wilson

Stars: Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Diane Keaton

After years of helping their hubbies climb the ladder of success, three wives have been dumped for newer, curvier models. But the trio is determined to turn their pain into gain. They come up with a cleverly devious plan to hit their exes where it really hurts - in the wallet! Sit back and watch the sparks fly as The Wives get mad, get even and get it all. Justice has seldom been so sweet. Or so much fun.

Writers: Olivia Goldsmith, Robert Harling

Bette Midler - Brenda Cushman
Goldie Hawn - Elise Elliot
Diane Keaton - Annie Paradis
Maggie Smith - Gunilla Garson Goldberg
Dan Hedaya - Morton Cushman
Sarah Jessica Parker - Shelly Stewart
Stockard Channing - Cynthia Swann Griffin
Victor Garber - Bill Atchison
Stephen Collins - Aaron Paradis
Elizabeth Berkley - Phoebe LaVelle
Marcia Gay Harden - Dr. Leslie Rosen
Bronson Pinchot - Duarto Feliz
Jennifer Dundas - Chris Paradis
Eileen Heckart - Catherine MacDuggan
Philip Bosco - Uncle Carmine Morelli

Taglines: Don't get mad. Get everything.

Release Date: 20 September 1996

Filming Locations: New York City, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $26,000,000(estimated)

Opening Weekend: $18,913,411 (USA) (22 September 1996) (1922 Screens)

Gross: $116,400,000 (Worldwide)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Jessica Lange was initially considered for the Elise Elliot role (played by Goldie Hawn).

Continuity: Elise, Annie and Brenda are having lunch after the funeral, the placement of the cocktails changes repeatedly.

Elise: It's the 90s, plastic surgery is like good grooming.

User Review

When Bad Stories Happen to Good Actresses

Rating: 4/10

It doesn't matter that the reviews of the book version of THE FIRST WIVES CLUB were generally good. It doesn't take away from the fact that it's nothing more than a thinly disguised bad story with a potentially wicked set-up that has seen better days and which not even the good chemistry of the three main performers can save.

On learning of the death of their one-time college friend Cynthia Swann-Griffin (Stockard Channing in an all-too-brief cameo) due to the abandonment from her husband, three recently divorced women, Annie Paradis (Diane Keaton), Elise Eliott (Goldie Hawn), and Brenda Cushman (Bette Midler) come together to get back at their former husbands by essentially taking away their freedom. Sounds familiar? In 1989, Roseanne Barr and Meryl Streep starred in SHE DEVIL, a bad (but compared to this trash, a classic) movie adaptation of the novel of the same name in which a middle-class wife, on being dumped by her husband for a successful romance novelist, decides to destroy her home, her family, and take away her husband's freedom by starting her own "club" for women in the same situation as she. Even farther to 1980: 9 TO 5 told a similar story about three co-workers (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton) who band together to make mincemeat of their male chauvinistic pig of a boss played by Dabney Coleman, and essentially prove to the entire office that woman make work more efficient. And even farther, to 1939, to a classic and the mother of all "desperate housewives": THE WOMEN brilliantly told the acid tale of how society women lose their husbands to social climbers, and while Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) does what no feminist would do -- go back to her unseen Stephen -- it is still a powerful tale of women, their men, and how they survive in a Darwinistic society where bitches eat bitches for lunch while playing bridge at 5 PM. And at the same time gave many of its actresses (all icons, from Joan Crawford to Paulette Goddard to Rosalind Russell to the great Lucille Watson) roles to sink their teeth in, something that has essentially gone South in the Hollywood of today.

But not to digress, even though I am talking of the same essential theme, THE FIRST WIVES CLUB should have been a much better movie than it is. All of the elements are there to make its comedy not only dark, but biting, cruel, politically incorrect (contrary to its PC nature), and not tack on the saccharine, cloying mess that pretends to be an ending. At the same time, there has to be something to like about in these three women: Annie comes across as vaguely sympathetic (a more intellectual version of Mary Haines), but her shrillness is so over-the-top and her transformation from klutz to business entrepreneur so unbelievable it's not possible to feel for her. Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn do better with what little material they've been given while still being little more than caricatures. Hawn at least does poke fun at Hollywood's treatment of actresses which may also be at her own "persona" which has (as Elise Eliott says) refused to age, but other than that, there's not much bite in her resolve to do her husband in.

Then we have the supporting characters, none which fare any better. What is Bronson Pinchot doing as (yet another) affected character stupidly named "Duarto Feliz?" (Don't writers do their research in writing about characters with Spanish names?) None of the younger women are written as little more as props, though at least Sarah Jessica Parker has a couple of lines that hint of a different version of Carrie Bradshaw. The husbands... well... they're essentially unrepentant jerks, and while in THE WOMEN they remained invisible, there was the idea that in that story they were actual people. That inexplicably, Dan Hedaya's character suddenly does an about-face at the end seems made to satisfy at least a part of the audience who would want to see at least one of the women retain their partner. And what's with Annie having a lesbian daughter if it doesn't tie into anything else in the story? That lesbians hate men and make great allies to jilted women everywhere? I didn't get it, I still don't get it, and it didn't work for me.

It just proves that a bad screenplay filled with unsympathetic characters will kill the central idea in a story, but also, that an equally bad direction with odd takes and bad editing will further the damage. Stockard Channing's death scene is so badly filmed it might as well been an afterthought from another movie that somehow found its way here. The sequence when Keaton, Midler, Hawn, and Pinchot intercept Dan Hedaya's apartment is another study in absolute ineptitude in creating comic slapstick, but then again, so is the sequence when Keaton discovers her husband wants to divorce her and in pops Marcia Gay Harden: what a lost opportunity to really make it the best moment on the screen! Didn't anyone do their homework? Does anyone recall the scene in THE WOMEN when Sylvia Fowler finds out her husband is set to marry Miriam Aarons (who is right in front of her) and then rips into her in a memorable cat-fight? That was a scene: this was a travesty. Which most of this movie is, anyway.