When I first heard that The First Wives Club movie would have a new life, I had an immeasurable amount of one-sided emotions trailblazing through my spirit. My heart ached at the thought of the staple song, “You Don’t Own Me” being ruined for the new generation. My college days were filled with pajama reenactments with shower caps and brushes used as microphones. Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton translated the classic creation constructed by Olivia Goldsmith’s best-selling novel The First Wives Club effortlessly pulling at my 17-year-old heartstrings. It wasn’t because I knew about getting divorced, infidelity, or betrayal from a spouse, but as a woman, this movie showed me how resilient women are; how we face adversity and with the aid of girlfriends, we rise like a phoenix and come out the fire shining brighter than we went in.
A dark cloud reigned over me with the thought of how to reprise predecessors have fallen flat. Let’s not forget about how the remake of Overboard 2018 failed to live up to the 1987 classic featuring again, Goldie Hawn the handsome Kurt Russell. I was, at the very least, skeptical of this remake and at best, hopeful that it would not totally tank. Honestly, I felt obligated to watch the remake. Not only because I had to compare it to the classic, but because this classic is recreated by a woman that looks like me. Before watching the series, I braced myself as I prepared for this visual upset.
Without disclosing too much, I will paint a vivid picture of episode one and a brief insight into the characters and their lives. Let’s start with Hazel, Jill Scott’s character. She is recently kicked to the curb by her narcissistic, chauvinistic soon to be ex-husband. Her life is a cross between Goldie Hawn’s character, Elise and Bette Milder who plays Brenda in the film adaptation of the novel. Her husband controlled her career while simultaneously stripping her of her self esteem. As she attempts to reclaim her life and maintain her lavish lifestyle, she has bouts of high and low moments. She attempts to find her musical voice and her voice in her personal life.
The comedic relief comes from a combination of all of the ladies throughout the series, but the most comedic character is Bree. Her character is played by Michelle Butea. Her character coincides with Bette Milder’s character Brenda in the film. Her character is portrayed like a homely dressed, crass speaking, rebuttal having a wife who has the personality of a Beyonce mixed with Meg Thee Stallion. She is a hardworking feminist that is not afraid to keep it real with her honesty and twerks when given the opportunity. Her witty statements come at the best times when situations are too tense and she always seems to be in your head and says everything you are thinking at home. I laughed more than a few times because her comments resonated with me so much. Bree has 2 children and is struggling with the betrayal of her husband’s infidelity. She is in limbo in her relationship and although love is evident between both her and her husband, she pushes him further away because she is unable to forgive him.
Lastly, we have Ari, starring Ryan Michelle Bathe. Ari brings this comedy a serious vibe that is needed. She is the Michelle Obama of the crew. Her character has hints of Diane Keaton’s character, Annie. She is an Ivy League graduate with a husband, child, multiple homes, and a career as a lawyer. She has decided to quit her job just before she makes her partner in order to help her husband with his Senator campaign. She is struggling in her marriage because she too, has lost her voice. Not because her husband is a chauvinist, but because they are in a quintessential and traditional marriage; she cooks, cleans and is used as a trophy wife during his campaign for Senator. Don’t confuse Ari’s character though. I didn’t call her Mrs. Obama for anything. Each character is uniquely crafted to appeal to every woman that has experienced or witnessed the running theme of hopelessness, love, and redemption. Each wife exposes themselves to the audience who can relate to not only the realistic visual representation of what girlfriends look and act like but also the inner flaws of women that only your true girlfriends recognize.
In episode one, we find pockets of the 1996 classic not only in the nostalgic lifestyles of the women and their relationships but in the infamous scenes that occur as well. Do you remember the scene in the film when the ladies are on a construction machine ( portable davit) at the top of a high rise building? That scene is duplicated and other notable scenes from the classic are present as well. The scene when the ladies break into the penthouse and the clothing store scene with Brenda and the new younger fiancé are a couple of the scenes that return in the T.V. Show.
Ultimately, The First Wives Club replication doesn’t disappoint at all. It breathes new life, but not to the classic 1996 classic film. It breathes new life to the representation of women living normal experiences in the world: Women of color and their experiences. We all have contact with betrayal, heartbreak, and the loss of who we are at some point in their lives. We all ponder and execute with our girlfriend’s experiences that succeed and fail only to have long-lasting memories and reminisce during our Waiting To Exhale sleepovers. However, I find it hard to digest the fact that instead of Tracy Oliver uniquely bringing these three individual stories to the screen, The title of a classic film was used. To be honest, the pockets of similarities do not outweigh the original details and cultural cleverness added to the film inspired T.V show. Without knowing the true rationale of using the classic film’s name, I can only assume that this would bring the show more viewers and/or it was picked up by the network because of the name of the show. What is disappointing is that we ostensibly do not deem that we are talented and can be creatives without recreating what has already been done. Scott, Butea, and Bathe translate this script in an authentic fashion that forces you to keep watching even when you get restless. So the moments of humor that you apparently miss, reinforce the reliability of the show because you get restless in your normal life, don’t you? Tracy Oliver delivers a new series that I will continue to indulge in. It is not currently, a cinematic show stopper, but only because it is compared to the classic film and we all know that classics should be left alone. My sentiments are similar to the remake of the classic Eddie Murphy film, Boomerang that turned into a T.V Show as well.
Classics should be left for the new generation to enjoy just as we do. Give them an opportunity to reenact their favorite scenes, which will likely coincide with yours and we will eventually see mothers and daughters and grandmothers dressed in all white singing “ You Don’t Own Me” with their hairbrushes in the living room. They can also all be introduced to new classic movies and shows that resonate with our daily lives and experiences that represent the strength of women and diverse cultures. I wonder if we could change the name from The First Wives Club to Ladies First Incorporated? I am waiting for the moment when all the creatives, including myself, stop playing it safe and just present our greatness and dopeness through our original ideas. We have them! Let’s stop asking for permission and show the world how insanely talented Black Girl Magic is- In all of its splendor!
First Wives Club is an American comedy television series, based on the film of the same name written by Robert Harling, which premiered on September 19, 2019, on BET+.
Actor’s Performance: 8.5