The First Wives Club

 
Frothy divorce-revenge comedy has iffy messages.
  • Review Date: December 28, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Iffy evolution in the three wronged women in the story; they go from just wanting revenge -- to make their fickle ex-husbands suffer -- to doing something for the greater good of society (opening a women's crisis center) and improving their own health/self-esteem as well. But still they ensure their exes suffer in the process, in perpetuity. On the plus side, they are shown as mutually supportive, even when they clash with one another. Most adult males here are shallow cads; there's just one line (referencing a lesbian relationship) to suggest women can break hearts too. The novel was a little more even-handed.

Violence

One character jumps to her death (offscreen); later there's a dangerous stunt on a window-cleaners' platform that similarly imperils the heroines; it's played for laughs.

Sex

No sex or nudity shown, but characters are depicted before/after bedroom interludes. A man fondles his girlfriend's (clothed) breast. Non-explicit allusion to laws prohibiting sex with minors. References to a series of (nonexistent) movies that clearly fall into the "erotic thriller" genre.

Language

"A--hole"; "s--t" uttered once.

Consumerism

Materialism is a strong component of the plot: hot car models, trendy furnishings, paintings, and objects d'art (with a big-name auction house). And, of course, there's a First Wives Club novel tie-in.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Heavy drinking in a few scenes. It precedes suicide (not shown) and ugly fights. One of the heroines is criticized by another for her liquor intake; she straightaway quits drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that infidelity, mistresses, divorce, and revenge (betrayed spouses vs. ex-husbands) propel the narrative of this film -- though it defies expectations by being a PG comedy instead of something harsher. Sex references are surprisingly coy, and swear words are kept to a minimum. One character's daughter is a lesbian, which is mentioned loudly and often; her mom cheerfully visits her child's favorite lesbian bar gets hit on. The grown children in these broken marriages are either cynical or join in plotting against their fathers. The upper-class NYC milieu slathers on the materialism -- the chic fashion, the cars, the decor.

What's the story?

After the boozing, a discarded middle-aged wife of a Wall Street tycoon kills herself by jumping from her penthouse, and three of her once-close college friends reunite for the funeral. Although way different in their temperaments, the much-plastic-surgeried movie starlet Elise (Goldie Hawn), brassy Brenda (Bette Midler), and people-pleasing Annie (Diane Keaton) learn they too have all been betrayed by longtime husbands (whose careers they had also nurtured) for younger mistresses. Gentle Annie's marriage ends in especially nasty style; still sleeping with her estranged spouse in hopes of reconciliation, she finds the smooth-talking guy is indeed dumping her, and dating her younger female psychotherapist. Together Elise, Brenda, and Annie make a pact: With the help of sympathetic allies and inside knowledge of their ex-mates' finances and vulnerabilities, they will drain the strayed husbands of their wealth and power.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

At the conclusion of THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, the three charismatic lead actresses do a self-affirming song-and-dance number. It's a fun scene -- and it points out what's been missing from the rest of the picture. This movie (based on a more grownup and realistic bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith) feels like an old-school Hollywood musical-comedy whose musical scenes got carted off by social services in a custody fight, leaving only the comic filler. Don't expect much depth; overall tone is buoyant and fluffy, even when the theme is divorce and the cruelest forms of ageism and sexual rejection. It's like a vintage screwball romantic comedy with strong cheerleading for matronly feminist solidarity.

Kid viewers may enjoy the energy and the flibbertigibbety rushing back and forth, even if the backhanded intrigues against the males are none too clear. Fans of Sarah Jessica Parker might compare her role here -- a vulgar, manipulative girl-toy of an appliance-store baron -- with her later, more sympathetic Sex and the City heroine seeking love.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the different personalities of Elise, Brenda, and Annie -- the way they criticize, even insult each other, but overcome their flaws in the process.

  • "Blended" families touched by angry divorce and remarriage might have much different takes on this movie. Does it make light of divorce? What do kids think of the revenge theme here? Author Olivia Goldsmith claimed to be discarded first wife herself, and the movie has a cameo by another one, Ivanna Trump. Can kids name any other famous first wives?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 20, 1996
DVD release date:December 1, 1998
Cast:Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn
Director:Hugh Wilson
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Comedy
Topics:Friendship
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, some mild language and sensuality.

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byPutchildrenfirst December 16, 2014
age 7+
 

pg film

The film is a whimsical look at the lengths some divorcees take in trying to get even. The film doesn't take itself seriously thus the appropriateness of the pg age rating. As the main site suggests during the film the daughter states that she is lesbian- although her mother is shocked the film doesn't dwell on this and moves swiftly on- no judgement takes place so if anything the brevity & non- judgment may advocate tolerance. None of the divorcees are good role models and appropriately not portrayed as such in the film for children.
Teen, 16 years old Written byloveydovey June 18, 2013
age 11+
 

this movie was great but i think it is for 11 ..12 and up.. :)

kissing , window drop, one person drinks alot..., and mild sware words ..,divorce marriage suicide .., i think this movie is awesome but 11.. 12 i think thats age appropreate
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written by915072 April 25, 2013
age 3+
 

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