The First Wives ClubSeptember 20, 1996
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
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
Gunilla Garson Goldberg
Sarah Jessica Parker
Cynthia Swann Griffin
Marcia Gay Harden
Dr. Leslie Rosen
Uncle Carmine Morelli
Don't get mad. Get everything.
Release Date: 20 September 1996
Filming Locations: New York City, New York, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $18,913,411
(22 September 1996)
Did You Know?
Jessica Lange was initially considered for the Elise Elliot role (played by Goldie Hawn).
Elise, Annie and Brenda are having lunch after the funeral, the placement of the cocktails changes repeatedly.
It's the 90s, plastic surgery is like good grooming.
When Bad Stories Happen to Good Actresses
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
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
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.