3 June 2004 | Raven_Z
A Bit Brainless, But Still a Good Watch...
The First Wives Club, while being an amusing flick, should not and can not be compared to the novel of the same name. As a matter of fact, some of the problems many people have with the film virtually disappear in the novel.
Annie Paradise, played by Diane Keaton, is far more annoying on screen than on page. In the film, Annie is anxious, neurotic, and just plain wimpy, in comparison to the novel Annie who happens to be quiet, and somewhat "over-nice." While many find that this film is disturbingly feminist, Annie's actions are far more forgiving in the novel, which has an array of background characters which Annie's husband exploit (While in the movie, all that he does is marry her therapist). This is completely forgotten in the screenplay, where Annie's family of two sons, and a daughter with Down's Syndrome, is now whittled down to one daughter, Chris the Lesbian. One can hardly blame Annie for her actions in the novel, where Aaron Paradise, her ex-husband, favors one son and forgets the other, can never accept his handicap daughter, and steals all of her trust fund and gambles on the stock market, losing it. In the film, she just appears to be an embittered woman.
Bette Midler's character of Brenda remains very similar in personality, but very different in sexuality. Her children too, get an overhaul in the novel's transition to film, but since none make much of an appearance in either, this is irrelevant. In the novel, however, Brenda's money problems are much greater, and her anger with Morty who "welsched" on her is so great that there's not much of a chance of her wanting to get back together with him -- besides the fact that in the novel, he's in prison, and Brenda realizes, albeit somewhat late in life, that's she's a lesbian. Instead, she gets together with her feminist lawyer who helps her take on Morty.
Elise Elliot, played by Goldie Hawn, is the most shocking change of character. Elise Elliot of the film is shallow, vain, and out of work because of her impending age. Elise Elliot (Atchison) of the novel is down-to-earth, classy, intelligent, and battling to enjoy her life while still following her mother's advice of how a wealthy heiress should live. Bill, her husband, commits crimes that are minor compared to the other Wives' husbands - as one of the richest women (by inheritance) in the world, she only asked that Bill would try to give her as normal of a life as possible. Instead, her cheated on her multiple times. Elise gets involved in Bill's downfall very little, however, and he brings it upon himself by falling in love with a self-destructive young woman named Phoebe.
While I enjoy both the movie and the book, the comparison is depressing. The film is filled with self-righteous feminism, and is the story of three women who can't seem to handle the fact that their marriages have now ended -- and all men appear to be pigs. The novel is intelligent and funny, and the women only bring justice to their husbands, letting "the punishment fit the crime." Also, in the novel, how a person acted depended on who they were, not their sex. All three Wives find love in new men (or in Brenda's case, women).
While watching the First Wives Club, one must remember to take all of it's actions with a grain of salt - it is merely an exaggeration of an idea. The novel is one of justice, and an excellent account of the lives of "WASPs" in New York -- don't blame it for how it's been adapted.