The First Wives Club on PAL Laserdisc

Dom Robinson reviews

The First Wives Club
Don’t Get Mad. Get Everything.
Distributed by
Pioneer LDCE

  • PLFEB 36541
  • Cert: PG
  • Running time: 98 minutes
  • Sides: 2 (CLV)
  • Year: 1996
  • Pressing: 1997
  • Chapters: 36 (20/16+1)
  • Sound: Dolby Surround
  • Widescreen: 1.85:1
  • Price: £24.99
  • Extras : Theatrical trailers for Sabrina, The Phantom, Clueless

  • Director:

      Hugh Wilson

    (Police Academy, Burglar, Guarding Tess)


    Scott Rudin


    Robert Harling


    Marc Shaiman


    Elise: Goldie Hawn (Death Becomes Her, Private Benjamin, Housesitter, Bird On A Wire)
    Brenda: Bette Midler (Beaches, For The Boys, Hocus Pocus, The Rose)
    Annie: Diane Keaton (Annie Hall, Father Of The Bride, The Godfather Trilogy, Manhattan)
    Gunilla Goldberg: Maggie Smith (The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, A Private Function, Hook, Sister Act)
    Shelley Stewart: Sarah Jessica Parker (L.A. Story, Striking Distance, Honeymoon In Vegas, Hocus Pocus)
    Morty Cushman: Dan Hedaya (Daylight, The Usual Suspects, Fair Game, Blood Simple)
    Cynthia: Stockard Channing (Grease, Six Degrees Of Separation, Up Close And Personal, To Wong Foo)
    Aaron Paradis: Stephen Collins (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, “Scarlett” (TV), “Seventh Heaven” (TV))
    Phoebe LaVelle: Elizabeth Berkeley (Showgirls, “Saved By The Bell” (TV))
    Dr. Leslie Rosen: Marcia Gay Harden (The Spitfire Grill, Miller’s Crossing, Spy Hard, Crush)
    Duarto Feliz: Bronson Pinchot (True Romance, Blame It On The Bellboy, Beverly Hills Cop 1 and 3, “Perfect Strangers” (TV))
    Uncle Carmine: Philip Bosco (Children Of A Lesser God)
    Dr. Morris Packman: Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap, Bullets Over Broadway, Mixed Nuts)
    Herself: Ivana Trump

The First Wives Club stars three of Hollywood’s best-known middle aged actresses, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton in a tale of three women, each of whom have spent their lives living for their other half, only to have it all thrown back in their faces 25 years down the line when they are traded in for a newer, curvier model.

Elise is an actress well past her prime, but still aiming for those underage parts by having every part of her body nipped, tucked, and lifted, not to mention having plenty of collagen injected into her lips. Brenda is a woman who spent her life doing everything to please her husband, and is now having to prepare for her son’s Barmitzvah. Annie is separated from her Advertising-Evecutive husband but thinks she can woo him back, and the won’t have to cope with her daughter’s new-found lesbianism on her own.

First, best friends at college, they are brought back together by the tragic news that their other best friend, Cynthia (in a cameo role from Stockard Channing), has committed suicide after being endlessly taken for granted by her husband. After sharing their tales of woe, they decide that enough is enough, and form the First Wives Club, a plan to turn pain into gain by hitting their ex’s right where it really hurts – in the wallet. Once this is complete, their club is open to every woman who wants to exact revenge.

The casting of the leads is well-chosen, although the script was probably written with these three in mind. Goldie Hawn continues to look younger than her years, while Diane Keaton suits the frumpy, motherly type, and Bette Midler as the always-worried Jewish mother.

The always-welcome Dan Hedaya fulfils his comic role as Brenda’s ex, and Sarah Jessica Parker overacts enough to play his young plaything. Elizabeth Berkeley could probably do the same for Elise’s ex, but only gets to appear in two speaking scenes throughout the whole film.

The rest of the cast is fleshed out with Maggie Smith and Bronson Pinchot as the two people picked out by Elise, Brenda and Annie to aid them in the downfall of their ex-husbands, with Pinchot effectively reprising his role in the first and third Beverly Hills Cop films as an effeminate, obsessed designer. Marcia Gay Harden appears as Annie’s psychiatrist, and their are cameos from Rob Reiner as Elise’s plastic surgeon, and Ivana Trump as herself telling the girls something from her own experience – Don’t get mad, get everything!

The picture quality shows what can be achieved when the best possible master is sourced, each scene bringing out the best in the plush homes inhabited by all involved, and the 1.85:1 widescreen framing retains the original cinema ratio. There is one slight glitch during chapter 33 when a thin line drifts up the screen for a few seconds, but this is nothing to get concerned about.

The sound quality also has no room for faults as it comes across very clear at all times, although it’s mostly used for ambience, incidental music or American MOR songs used as a backdrop to describe the scene instead of dialogue. The disc is also very well chaptered with 36 spread throughout the film, and one for the trailers for Sabrina, The Phantom, and Clueless

The only thing lacking in this whole package is at the hands of the film itself. The film doesn’t really live up to the idea, and drags on by 15 minutes more than it needs to by causing Elise and Brenda to have a bust-up and a name-calling session, following the announcement of Brenda’s ex getting engaged to his “pre-schooler” and Elise’s continuing alcoholism bringing things to a head, before eventually getting things back on track. There are, however, a number of clever one-liners and situations early on in the film, although given the subject matter this is more a film for women than men.

Film: 2/5
Picture: 5/5
Sound: 3/5

Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 1998.

Check out Pioneer‘s Web site.

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Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.


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