Beaches (1988)

by | May 21, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Beaches (1988)

Starring: Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey
Director: Gary Marshall
Studio: Touchstone/Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Video: 1.85:1 Enhanced for 16:9 Widescreeen
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround Sound
Extras: Beaches Bloopers, 1989 Wind Beneath My Wings Music Video, Mayim
Bialik Remembers Beaches, Barbara Hershey Screen Test, Audio Commentary
with Director Garry Marshall
Length: 123 minutes
Rating: ***

Beaches is all about an intense, enduring friendship between two very
different females which survives dramatic fluctuations of careers,
marriage, divorce and illness. Real time is 1988. As the film opens,
the famous singer C. C. Bloom (Bette Midler) is rehearsing for her next
concert at The Hollywood Bowl. She’s suddenly called away to an
apparent emergency. Most of the film is a series of flashbacks to the
previous three decades.

After meeting accidentally on vacation at age eleven on the beach at
Atlantic City, C. C. and Hillary (Barbara Hershey) develop a strong
connection via a decade of long distance letter writing before they
meet again in New York. When circumstances separate them at other
times, they again write letters. The voice overs as letters are read
serve as effective and lovely transitions for the film.

C.C. lives a lower middle class life in the Bronx in her early years
and Hillary a life of privilege and wealth near San Francisco. C. C. is
a fiesty Jewish entertainer from childhood on with a stage mother
(Lainie Kazan) both pushy and loving. Hillary is a proper, well behaved
W.A.S.P. child who is dazzled by the flamboyant little C. C. played
superbly by Mayim Bialik. While C.C. pursues a career singing and
acting, Hillary graduates from Stanford and becomes a lawyer. She
rebels against her staid family and while living with C. C. in New York
works for the ACLU.

That two women so completely opposite in tastes and temperment could be
best friends makes no rational sense and yet makes complete sense when
observing the chemistry between them. Beaches is more than a “chick
flick.” It explores issues around success, values and loyalty in
addition to being a poignant story of friendship.

Some mutual jealousy leads to a sad estrangement for a time when the
two are well into adulthood. As both women separately grieve the loss
of each other, C. C. moans to her then husband, “What will I do without
my best friend?” to which he sweetly replies “You got me.” When C. C.
repies “It isn’t the same,” that sums up how female relationships are
often emotionally intimate in certain ways that female/male ones are
not.

The casting in Beaches is noteworthy. Barbara Hershey, a veteran of
about 60 films, plays the part of the beautiful, smart, sensitive and
supportive friend effectively. Bette Midler is predictably just right
in the role of a highly versatile, ambitious entertainer who becomes a
big star. Her ego driven, self absorbed character eventually evolves
into a more fully realized and generous human being when life demands
it.

John Heard brings to his role believeable qualities as an idealistic
theatrical director of a small company. Lainie Kazan, the
quintessential stage mother, reveals in her few scenes a warmth and
directness with her daughter that take her beyond the stereotype of the
hovering maternal presence. Spaulding Gray, the brilliant, now deceased
monologist, in a small role shows a sweet vulnerability.

Our attention is riveted to the developing story centered on
C. C. and Hillary. The character development of the men in the film is
mainly limited to how they are with the women. The 11 year old C. C.
(Mayim Bialik) was played by a child who looked like a miniature Bette
Midler. Her screen time was unfortunately limited to the first half
hour or so. Little C. C. sang and danced and was wonderfully brassy,
just as we might imagine Bette Midler as a child might have been.

Bette Midler fans probably find the film worthwhile for Bette’s singing
alone. The music includes I Think it’s Gonna Rain Today, Wind Beneath
my Wings, Under the Boardwalk, The Glory of Love and several others.

The extras are worth viewing. The adult Mayim Bialik gives a wealth of
charming recollections of her experience during the making of Beaches.
I found the Beaches Bloopers and the Barbara Hershey screen test mildly
amusing. More impressive was the audio commentary by Garry Marshall,
the director. His remarks are an interesting blend of plot commentary
and information and trivia. He calls attention to various minor actors,
explaining who they are and what they are doing now or some unusual
observation, such as telling us that the role of Hillary’s Aunt Vesta
was played by a woman who was Marshall‘s “stop smoking therapist.”
Marshall makes some comments on the set design and cinematography. We
learn that Beaches was the cinematographer Dante Spinotti’s first film
and that he was later nominated for his work on L. A. Confidential.

Marshall remarks that he likes to concentrate on the actors with the
more difficult roles so he hires a lot of the same people in his films
for the minor roles. It is clear he holds a lot of respect and fondness
for his actors.

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