There is one certain in this wack life of ours. And that is the fact that BEACHES is one of the best movies ever made. Beaches will hand you your ass without even batting an eye and then make you sit there for another 20 minutes, so you can sit back and reflect on how Beaches just played you like a used harp.
I have never read the book that Beaches is based on. I know that it is suppose to be pretty good and there is a sequel called Beaches II. But, no one ever seems to talk about it. I do know that if the book is anything like the screenplay, I would consider it a Mean Read! Bette only got the best and she called in Mary Agnes Donoghue (her friends call her Mads) to work her magic on the Beaches screenplay. It would prove to be her second screenplay and her strongest. After everyone raved of the screenplay, she went on to direct her own film. She thought she could tackle the novel Le Grand Chemin, which had already been filmed and is one of the best modern French films to date, and proceeded to seal her fate. Darn that Beaches!! It worked! How come Paradise bombed? She went right ahead and did the screenplay for the Goldie Hawn vehicle, Deceived. That was about it. But at least she still had credit for the Beaches screenplay! It's everything you could ever want in a film and then some. Every line of dialogue crackles with honesty and sincerity. It is full of honest emotions and sassy comebacks that you can use in everyday life. Like, "You just spent two hours dying your hair the same color!" Or, "I feel things deeply." Genius.
Beaches is given that little something extra that just about any film needs from behind the lens. Garry Marshall is really in touch with what makes a movie click with an audience. He had the sleeper hit Overboard under his belt and after Beaches, went right into his masterpiece Pretty Woman and is still working. His last project Valentine's Day, was a film so saccharin sweet, that American audiences turned away from it in a diabetic coma. Marshall has a way of directing a picture, that seems to pile on the sentiment and cut out the heart, but Beaches never ever falls into that pit. It tightens its vice grip on you as the film weaves its tapestry of sisterhood and motherhood, all the while having some great songs tossed into the mix.
When you get right down to it, the movie is essentially about Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey and their on-going battle to not murder each other. Through loves, loss, triumphs, heartaches and the occasional cat fight in a department store, the girls always have each other. That is until Babs gets the death cough and her lips get larger and you know she is a goner. You can see it coming a mile, well about ten, miles away. The moment Babs closes the big book in the library and Midler starts singing, "tin can at my feet, think i'll kick it down the street", it is ON! Bette straps on her most powerful Diva armor ever and goes for blood. She has one concern and that is to make you suffer and hurt and she is going to make sure that you never ever doubt her power again. She takes the whole world on, including the littlest brat in the world, plus she has to deal with Pouncher the Wonder Cat. Can she waddle through all this sentiment and heart on our sleeve emotions and deliver an Oscar caliber performance? YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS SHE CAN. And she does. She didn't get nominated for an Oscar, but that does not lessen her performance. And Hershey is actually amazing as well, but that is all very unimportant. Bette just needed someone to bounce off of, and Hershey is perfectly fine at it and with it.
Rounding out the main cast is this little girl who seems to hate being in the movie and constantly gets upstaged by Pouncer the Wonder Cat. He knew exactly what he was doing in every shot!
Casting is always key and Beaches does it perfectly. As a younger C.C. Bloom, Bette's character, there was only one natural choice. BLOSSOM!! Well, before she became Blossom. Little Blossom. Mayim Bialik is so adorable as lil' C.C. She brings in a mix of the movie version of Annie with a peppering of the Divine Miss M's late 70's glitz. On a kid's budget of course. She sings, she taps, she yells at her mom and most importantly, she shoots dangers with her eyes at her arch enemy, Iris Myandowski. Otherwise known as the hand walking queer. Everyone knows that hand walking is always a showstopper. The role of lil' Babs is really incidental.
The entire movie is manufactured around getting Bette's character, C.C. to sing. Along with singing she does it all. She screams at everyone, cries while driving in the rain, slams doors, dances on the beach and leads an entire supporting cast through the motions of not just one, but two showstopping numbers. The first comes early in a flashback, where the gals are BFFS and living in NYC and just getting it all together. A hobo ladies sleeps outside of their apartment and they have a snow covered veranda! Sisters are doing it for themselves, but back to the musical numbers. C.C. lands the lead in a avante garde play about, well, lets just say it. Oh, Industry. We understand. If you ever drive through the Luna Park area in West Seattle, you will see Oh, Industry first hand. The production number is all smoke and various shades of gray and stomp dancing, but C.C. nails it and the crowd goes nuts when she comes out for her bow. If you dig deeper in the Beaches lore, you will see how the" Oh, Industry" number shows the inner turmoil that the girls are going through as they try to figure out their lives and understand humanity. Also, C.C. has to dress as a big bunny to make ends meet, while Babs (loaded with daddy's money) volunteers for causes and drives C.C. around. OH! Industry! INDEED!
The next big musical number comes in the form of re-hashing an old Bette number from her early live shows. The girls have grown apart and C.C. kinda stole Babs man, so there is some friction, but Babs being the good friend flya across the country to attend the opening night of SIZZLE!! It is a bawdy and raunchy revolving doors comedy/musical with C.C. in the eye of the hurricane. "Otto Titsling" showcases C.C.'s "fun" side. She basically eats the stage alive and regurgitates it back onto the viewing audience. Much to any viewers delight. After the show, she and Babs have a full on diva showdown in a department show. Bitch vs. Bitch! Folks it is good. Once again, dig a little deeper into the Beaches lore and you will realize that SIZZLE represents where the characters are at in this stage of their lives. Both women are unhappy and everything is just show. C.C. has her career and a huge dog and Babs has a trophy husband and all the money she could ever want, but all they really want are to recapture the feeling and life they had during their "Oh, Industry" days. But once you leave "Oh, Industry" behind, there is no going back. SIZZLE!
Both women find themselves on the outs in love and life and realize that they only have each other. Babs gives birth to a mouthy little girl and reads in a big book that she is going to die. From what I am not really sure. C.C. sweeps in to take care of everything and charm the pants off of no one. The last 30 minutes is probably one of the hardest times to get through. Beaches turns into an emotional roller coaster, with Bette at the controls. She masterminds your ups and downs, while making sure you are firmly locked into your seat and makes sure you are holding on for dear life. Once you see the limo tire roll and you hear, "oh, whoa, oh..." you are a goner. The waterworks start and you are fully trapped in the clutches of one of the most powerful divas in the history of diva-dom. When the finale screen flashes back to those early days on the boardwalk and Blossom mugging for the camera, you are left a shell of a person, but longing to watch it all over again. Once you have memorized all the words to the songs on the soundtrack, including the non-musical number songs, like " I know you by heart" and have set up reenactments of the big Bitch Fight in Nordstrom or Macy's, then you realize what Bette has been trying to tell us. You will worship Beaches. Some might call it a false idol, but i like to call it Iconic.