Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Wind Beneath My Wings

Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey
Released: December 21,1988

Oscar nominations:
Best Art Direction (lost to Dangerous Liaisons)

Is Beaches a chick flick? One might say unequivocally so. Is Beaches a schmaltzy film? You could say one of the schmaltziest ever. Are there problems with the script? Most definitely yes. Did I cry my eyes out while watching it? I am not ashamed to say that yes, yes, I did. Do I know every word to Wind Beneath My Wings? Who doesn't?

In a one sentence summary, Beaches is a film about the friendship between two women that spans over thirty years. Cece Bloom and Hilary Whitney meet on the beach in Coney Island one summer as eleven year olds and strike up a lifelong friendship. The two girls couldn't be more different. Cece is from the Bronx, a rough and tumble kinda New York girl with an attitude and wants to be a STAH! She sings, tap dances, acts. Her mother is the typical stage mother and Cece calls her Leona. Leona's played by Lainie Kazan whos' probably best known for playing the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but she also played Andrea's grandma in Beverly Hills, 90210. I should also note that young Cece is played by Mayim Bialik. If you don't know that name, shame on you! She only played the titular character on  Blossom that was on 8:30/7:30 central time Monday nights on NBC right after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the early nineties. Is it weird that I can remember what was on Monday nights on NBC twenty years ago, but I couldn't tell you what's on Mondays on NBC presently? And if you still have no idea what Blossom was, maybe this will refresh your memory:

Hilary is from San Francisco and comes from a rich family. Her mom died when she was young and her extracurricular actives include horse back riding and ballet, activities that young, proper girls do.

Hilary and Cece exchange addresses and keep a correspondence, writing letters to each other often. We see them grow up and graduate college and they're still writing each other. Now this is the first problem with the script I have. There is no way that two eleven year old girls that live on opposite sides of the country are going to write each other for that long after they've just spent, what, half a day together? Maybe they would write to each for a few months after meeting, but it would eventually stop.

Fast forward to Bette Midler as older Cece who is a struggling performer and Barbara Hershey as older Hilary who is a lawyer and has decided to defy her father and move to New York to visit Cece. Apparently they never sent pictures of themselves to each other because Cece doesn't even know it's Hilary when she approaches her at a nighclub Cece sings at.

After that, the rest of the movie revolves around this cycle: they fight, they cry, they make up, they cry again. I swear, that must happen four or five times in the movie! The first time is when Cece likes a guy (Macaulay Culkin's dad from Home Alone), but he likes Hilary in return. Hilary ends up marrying a lawyer when she goes back to San Francisco for awhile (more letter writing!) to take care of her sick dad and Cece marries Mr. McCallister. By the time Hilary returns to New York with her new husband, Cece has become more famous and she and her husband are now living in a lavish penthouse. The two haven't seen each other in awhile and another fight breaks out. Hilary says it's because they've fallen apart, but Cece accuses Hilary, saying that she's broken apart. Eventually they make up down the line. (More crying! And hugging!)

I watched the commentary with Garry Marshall and he mentioned that he wanted to make this movie because most people didn't want to make a movie about the friendship between two women and how he was interested in that aspect. He then went on to say that he finds women friendships fascinating because, according to him, when men fight, they won't speak to each other for years, but when women fight, they've made up in a couple of hours and are shopping! Not only is this extremely sexist, but I find it quite untrue. I'm no expert, so I'll just pretend to be: when guys fight, they just need to hit something (like each other (see, I can be sexist too!)), but I think females hold grudges way longer than guys do. If you piss me off, I will not talk to you from anywhere as long as a week to eternity. To be fair to the movie, when Cece and Hilary had their biggest fight, they didn't talk to each other for months and Hilary ignored all of Cece's letters, so it wasn't like they were BFFs again after a couple of hours and SHOPPING! Shopping makes everything better!

Both of their marriages fall apart. Hilary catches her husband with another woman (eating breakfast) and Cece's husband feels like he comes second to her career. This bonds the two lifelong friends together again and Cece finds out that Hilary is pregnant. She is beyond ecstatic as both women have mentioned how much they would love to have kids. Hilary has a girl...who grows up to be a psychotic ballet dancer. Sorry, couldn't resist a Black Swan joke! Actually, Darren Aronofsky or whoever cast that movie is a genius because during Beaches, I was struck by how much Barbara Hershey looked like Natalie Portman, especially after she got sick. (Hmm, did I just inadvertently diss Natalie Portman?)

That's right, bring on the terminal illness that befalls one of the friends. Hilary has some heart problem and after spending the last moments of her life (minus in the hospital) with her daughter, now six or seven, and Cece on the beach, she eventually dies.

This is where I lost it. Between the montage with Bette Midler singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" Hilary's daughter, Victoria, sitting forlornly at her mom's funeral, and Victoria's tear-stained face while petting her cat for comfort, I was a sobbing mess. Sooo glad I was watching this alone!

Cece tells Victoria that her mother said she wanted her daughter to live with Cece in her will. Wait, what? What about her dad? Even Cece asks Victoria if she wants to live with her father and Victoria says she's never met him! They didn't really explain it well, but either Hilary never told her ex that she was pregnant or he knew about it and didn't want anything to do with his child. In either case, it makes one of the parents look like a jerk. So Cece adopts Victoria and that's the end. Cue "Wind Beneath My Wings" again.

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