Why the 'First Wives Club' is an Underrated Classic
We are BACK, friends and other friends. And we will now embark on a movie that I wish I understood better when it came out because I love it so much now and that movie is First Wives Club.
Now, upon further investigation, I am and will always be Bette Midler a.k.a. Brenda. Anytime I can insert a joke into a social situation, I will do it, and anytime I can get angry about something, I will probably do that too. (Combine the two and I’m in heaven. THIS IS WHO I AM. FEAR ME, MORTYS OF THE WORLD.) When this movie first came out, I didn’t understand the wonder that is sarcasm, and I thought this was just a film about women scream-singing “You Don’t Own Me” for reasons my 11-year-old brain couldn’t fully understand.
AND NOW I GET IT.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve been married (I personally have not, but hello, I will still submit my opinions because I am obsessed with my opinions), you still “get” this movie. I mean, hi: everyone present and accounted for has 100% at least dated/saw/talked to various crushes/partners/guys/girls who did a number on your heart and mind, which means you can watch this movie and think, “YEP.” The gentlemen of my past absolutely fit this bill in some capacity, and even if they don’t follow the specific narrative of The First Wives Club, these bros still made me want to ruin their lives through scheming and/or morphing into three women scorned.
But this movie is about more than that. So without further adieu, here are 9 things I’ve learned from The First Wives Club.
1. Pacts are useful
Two of the best movies in the world exist because of pacts: The First Wives Club and Now and Then. The scope of the pact? To be there for each other when you are needed. Brilliant! Thank you, pact! This way, when you trigger the pact, there can be no guilt or “I’m busy.” It’s: life is in shambles, you get here NOW. So yes; go make a pact. Lock those friends in. But for the love of all that is good, do not activate said pact unless it is necessary.
2. You are an individual and no relationship can take that away from you
I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but Stockard Channing’s character jumps off her balcony because the guy she was married to married his much younger girlfriend the day before, and it’s very upsetting. So I’m here today to say: no. NO! Good GOD, no. Look: you are you, and no young hot thang or philandering partner can take that away. I mean, if you’re reading this now and think ‘I literally hate my life, but I’ve been with this person so long and it is WHO I AM,’ Stop. Collaborate, and listen. Fly free because some person ISN’T who you are, that person should complement who you are, and anything less is nonsense.
3. If you have a therapist, make them the opposite of Marcia Gay Harden’s therapist
I don’t know how else to say it: she’s terrible. Technically speaking, she’s not a very good therapist. (I feel like she guilts Annie a lot?) But on a grander scale, she starts sleeping with Annie’s husband, who ends up hooking back up with Annie, then afterwards, asks her for a divorce. I mean, Annie’s husband was obviously terrible this whole time, but this therapist wasn’t exactly beneficial to the whole “improving one’s relationship and mental health” thing.
Although for the record, I would totally go to the real Marcia Gay Harden as my therapist—she just seems so calming to be around.
4. Honestly, nothing in the world feels better than having a plan
And I don’t mean a “this is what will I do tomorrow!” plan (although those are also the BEST because DAMN IT I LOVE PLANNING), I mean “let’s get together and change somebody’s life MAYBE for the worse because they deserve it.” And obviously—like the husbands here in question—they have to deserve it. This isn’t about cutting in line at a bakery, this is about some guy leaving a woman for a therapist (AS MENTIONED) or being forced to pay 50% of everything to some guy who claims he’s responsible for your fame. Or Dan Hedaya dating Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, who is the worst. Then—THEN!—you plan. And you plan GOOD. And then you dance.
5. Dance like no one’s watching, JK dance FOR everyone, specifically your friends and also WITH your friends
YOU DON’T OWN ME (she scream-sang, writing this very article about The First Wives Club). Because here’s the thing: YOU DO NOT. Nope! No ownage here. Currently, I am watching and re-watching this bit and starting to resent my own friends for not having come up with a choreographed dance we can perform in moments of “OH HELL NO.” Unless you count Bette, Diane, and Goldie as my friends. Which I do. So in that case, it looks like we’ve got one. *WINK*
6. It’s not necessarily the other woman’s fault
Here’s something I really like about The First Wives Club: at first, it villainizes the “other women,” but after a while, the movie recognizes that infidelity is bigger than just “what that young woman did.” Case in point: at first, we’re supposed to hate Elizabeth Berkley because she’s a young actress dating Goldie Hawn’s ex-husband, but then it’s revealed that she’s a minor, meaning she is a wee babe, who was a victim in her own right.
7. Elise’s rollercoaster of emotion is totally justifiable
Remember near the end when Elise (Goldie Hawn) gets drunk and calls the whole thing off? And how angry some of us (hi) got at first, and how we didn’t understand what her freaking hold up was? WELL, look: Elise’s life was hard. Not only was she dealing with embracing middle age, the one guy who had helped Elise launch her career (and/or who believed in her), is claiming that without him, she’d be nothing. Can you imagine how messed up that would be? So not only is she trying to move on emotionally (in the midst of being replaced), professionally, she’s also being told she’s worthless. Now, I totally get why Elise wanted to put the brakes on the mission. Scheming takes empowerment and confidence. And praise all the lords, girlfriend found both.
8. Friendship conquers all, forever
FOREVER. Did you hear me? DID YOU? Good, of course. Sorry, I’m a little passionate about the wonder of the Goldie-Bette-Diane triangle. Mostly because, not only do these women work together to build themselves back up [praying emoji hands of gratitude], they end up funding a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping abused women. FRIENDSHIP. SISTERHOOD. ALL OF IT. Have everybody’s backs. Even Sarah Jessica Parker’s character because clearly it takes a lot of horrible things to make somebody so mean.
9. Important: sometimes you just have to respect other people’s decisions
I always want to get psyched for the Brenda (Bette)-Morty reunion, but I can’t, because I am an unforgiving person when my trust is broken by a guy, and he broke her trust SO BAD. I have friends who are super forgiving and understanding, and then friends even less forgiving than me, and then others somewhere in between and the moral of the story is this: just do what makes you happy, provided you’re not hurting anybody else. That’s basically what The First Wives Club does best via its mantra: support your pals, and be a good friend, and if they want to do their thing, tell them your opinion, and then that’s it. Bless.
Or, more specifically: make a pact. So that if something DOES go south, there’s a way to bounce back quick and sing to YOU DON’T OWN ME. (Typed in caps because I’m never not scream-singing it.) LET’S DANCE.
Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures