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Blu-ray Review: The First Wives Club (1996)

June 28, 2022

By John Corrado

Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing The First Wives Club for the first time on Blu-ray this week, a 1996 comedy that has gained a following over the years.

The film follows Annie (Diane Keaton), Elise (Goldie Hawn) and Brenda (Bette Midler), three former college friends who decide to get back at their sleazy ex-husbands (Stephen Collins, Victor Garber and Dan Hedaya) for dumping them for younger women.

Annie, Elise and Brenda are brought back together by the suicide of their estranged friend Cynthia Swann (Stockard Channing). When they realize that they all have cheating men in common, the trio forms the “First Wives Club” as a way to get even their exes.

Directed by Hugh Wilson, The First Wives Club is a women standing up for themselves romp that plays in a similar vein as 9 to 5. While it lacks some of the genuine bite of that earlier film, the screenplay by Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias, Soapdish), adapted from Olivia Goldsmith’s novel of the same name, features heavily quotable dialogue (including Midler’s “I beat Meryl!”) and sets up a number of amusing scenarios for its three appealing leads to navigate.

This is a prime example of a film that didn’t really do that well with critics at the time of its release, but found an audience at the box office who turned it into a pop culture staple. The film’s elements of camp and diva star power have also given it an understandable queer following over the years (Annie’s young adult daughter, played by Jennifer Dundas, matter-of-factly tells her mother that she is a lesbian, and the women take an amusing trip to the lesbian bar to get help with their revenge scheme).

Not everything about the movie works equally well (Cynthia’s suicide is basically treated as a plot point, and the mostly lighthearted film can’t quite grapple with its heavier themes), but The First Wives Club still serves as a fairly enjoyable female empowerment comedy, that delivers entertaining performances and slapstick humour. The Blu-ray offers fans of the film a decent chance for an upgrade.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray comes with a new featurette about the legacy of the film. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

Filmmaker Focus with Screenwriter Robert Harling (10 minutes, 57 seconds): Harling reflects on adapting the book for the screen, working with the lead actresses, iconic moments from the film, and its enduring legacy.

Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 28 seconds):

The First Wives Club is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 102 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: June 28th, 2022

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