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Movie review -- 'Beaches'

By CATHY BURKE, United Press International

Barbara Hershey never looked and acted worse than she does with co-star Bette Midler in the sappy, unbelievable and totally predictable tear-jerker, 'Beaches.'

Since Midler plays the part of a songstress who seems a carbon copy of her real self, her part is better -- albeit not a great stretch of imagination or acting.

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Together, Midler's C.C. Bloom and Hershey's Hillary Whitney Essex display a mess of misplaced and unexplainable emotions. They are supposed to be attractive opposites, loyal and steadfast and loving friends to the end. At best, they are an odd couple who don't exhibit much motivation for even liking one another.

Director Garry Marshall is at the helm of this doomed project; the vapid screenplay of 'Beaches' is the fault of Mary Agnes Donoghue.

The story revolves around your basic friends-from-childhood-through-adulthood plot. C.C. Bloom is the ambitious and talented singer who has her eyes on stardom and won't quit until she gets there. Hillary is the subdued child of social privilege and wealth, destined to do her father's bidding in everything from choice of careers to choice of husband. Though from different social worlds, the friends find love and understanding valuable enough to carry them through their lives.

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The first portion of the movie moves the friendship through a decade by the exchange of letters between the young women: C.C. missives are brash and gutsy and funny; Hillary's are serious and wryly witty. Things loook promising.

Then in one sudden jerk, we are brought to New York City, where C.C. is a struggling jazz club singer and Hillary has just dumped her law career and father to take up a position at the ACLU and her best-friend's dingy downtown flat. Their lives zoom all too predictably onward from there.

C.C. becomes a big star, gets married, choses fame over a happy home, goes downhill and comes back again by movie's end. Hillary breaks free of her father's influence, gets caught back in it, marries a conventional two-timing husband, dumps him, but has his baby, becomes a high-powered lawyer and faces tragedy with stoic courage.

Are these the kind of parallel lives that should inspire loyalty? They barely spark your interest, since the plot has been done so many times before on so many soap operas. The imagination, wit and friendship that Hershey and Midler could have displayed to keep this soaper from sinking is sadly lacking. When Midler is buoyant, Hershey is somber and flat; when Hershey is anguished and angry, Midler is petulant and boring. They clash horribly.

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The look of the movie is troubling as well. Hershey looks weary; her make-up is smeary looking and her face often seems puffy. She looks middle-aged from her first shot on-screen to the last. Midler, at least, is beautifully wild-looking throughout.

Midler's singing is the only pleasant part of the film. The rest of it you've seen and heard before -- and better.

This movie is rated PG-13. Contains some sexual material.

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