A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
“The First Wives Club” is a creepy revenge comedy about three women who are dumped by their husbands. They don't get mad, they get even. Well, they get mad, too. The film opens at college in 1969, when four new graduates vow eternal friendship. They don't stay in touch, however, and it takes the suicide of one to bring the other three together at her funeral.
They are all now in their 40s. There is Brenda (Bette Midler), who helped her husband build up a chain of electronics stores, only to be dumped for a cute young thing. Elise (Goldie Hawn), an actress, has fought age to a standstill with plastic surgery but moans, “In Hollywood, women have only three ages: babe, district attorney and `Driving Miss Daisy.”' And Annie (Diane Keaton) deludes herself that her husband, who runs an ad agency, is going to come back after their “trial separation.” The story, based on a novel by Olivia Goldsmith, follows them as they grow increasingly disenchanted with men (that doesn't take much), and band together to pull assorted scams and blackmails in order to get what is rightfully theirs, which in each case means her husband's business.
Once you have this structure figured out, there's not much more to think about in the movie, which alternates heartfelt talks with slapstick and sitcom situations. You need a short attention span in order to be touched by the true confessions scenes and still be able to believe a sequence in which the three heroines break into the penthouse office of one husband, and escape detection by crawling onto a window washer's platform, which hurtles toward the earth.
Of the three main characters, Elise, the desperate actress played by Goldie Hawn, is the most fun. She has had some success in the movies, fears it is mostly behind her, and has a husband (Victor Garber) who got a free ride to the top as a “producer” because he was married to her. Now he has a very young new bimbo, and wants half of their assets and monthly alimony.