A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
At the end of the movie, the three charismatic lead actresses do a self-affirming song-and-dance number; it's a fun scene, but 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: September 20, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: 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.
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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