Review: First Wives Club (1996)

Director: Hugh Wilson
Screenwriter: Scott Rudin
Starring: Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Maggie Smith
Genre: Comedy
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, some mild language, and sensuality
Release Dates: 9/20/96 (Theatres); 8/1/13 (Streaming)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Oscars: Nominated–Original Score
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime


First Wives Club is the kind of film that lifts your spirits and is good to watch in between viewing dramatic, heavy movies. Sometimes, you just need to to watch a trio of A-list actresses engage in hilarious, ridiculous shenanigans, even if the execution isn’t perfect. 

Surprisingly, the film — which boasts a Rotten Tomatoes score of an abysmal 50% — was nominated for an Oscar, for best original score. I hardly noticed the score, as I was sometimes caught up in laughing. Seriously, at times I found things so funny that I was wiping tears from my eyes. And, on occasion, I feel the need to watch something that makes me cry from laughing. (Also, I’m the kind of person who will laugh as loud as I feel like it, whenever I feel like it, even if I’m the only one laughing).

First Wives Club is centered on three women, played by Oscar winners Diane Keaton and Golden Hawn and Oscar nominee Bette Midler, who are fed up with their (ex)-husbands and decide to get back at them, often in the most ludicrous, unbelievable ways. The fun exists primarily in the relationship among the three leads, who play off each other so nicely that you can see why/how the film (despite its low rating from critics) has become a sort of cult classic. The three women, who were around 50 years old when they filmed this, clearly had a blast — which is most noticeable in the final scene, which has them singing (the only one who can really sing is Midler) and dancing to “You Don’t Own Me.” 

While the plot and scenes are often over-the-top, it’s on-brand for this type of movie. It’s exceedingly predictable at times, but, again, that’s okay here. However, being that the film is now 24 years old, some of the jokes and material are dated, especially in reference to a lesbian character. While it is nice to see an LGBT individual in a film like this, the way the character is presented would not be appropriate in 2020. 

And, look, there’s a very young Sarah Jessica Parker, pre-Sex in the City, as one of the younger girlfriends to an ex-husband. Dame Maggie Smith also has a scene-stealing role as the club’s wealthy accomplice, along with Victor Garber as Hawn’s snooty Hollywood Elite ex. 

All in all, an enjoyable flick that can be viewed multiple times, if only to lift one’s spirits.