Friday, 24 July 2009

Beaches

Lowdown: Two women's relationship across distance and time.
Review:
Another quiet night by the PVR brought us Beaches, a 1988 release whose age showed despite (or perhaps because of) its high definition transmission.
Starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, Beaches starts with Midler as a very famous singer about to go on a Los Angeles stage before tens of thousands for a live show. Shortly before the show she receives a mysterious note that sends her driving all through a rainy night to San Francisco, a long drive spent mostly flashbacking (where the bulk of Beaches lies). Flashbacks start with a glimpse at her Atlantic City childhood, where she was auditioning as a girl performer and where she met the younger version of Hershey - a rich girl visiting from San Francisco.
On the face of it, Midler and Hershey are opposites: Rich vs. poor, outgoing vs. caged. Yet the kids decide to keep in touch, a policy they follow as they post one another letters through the years. Yes, Beaches is a film that could not have been made in this day and age of Skype free video conferencing across the world. As the film develops and our characters grow up, occasionally meeting and spending time together, we get to realize how similar they are: they both fall for the same guy, they both get bound by circumstances, and they argue (thus raising the question of whether the film should have been called Bitches). When push comes to shove, though, it is obvious these two are kin spirits.
The pattern used in Beaches is identical to the one used in the recently reviewed Dutch film Twin Sisters. However, given Twin Sisters is a 2002 production, it is clear who which was the more original film to follow two close characters divided by physical distance across a lifetime in which they occasionally meet using flashbacks. The endings are pretty similar, too. The result in both cases is what most people would dub "a chick flick": a pleasant if empty affair with story elements that appeal more to the female of the species rather than us muscular and testosterone overflowed males.
To me, the most interesting aspect of Beaches was the way in which it managed to capture the spirit of the eighties so strongly. Between the film's color palette, the music soundtrack (most of which performed by Midler), the editing, and the sets (the film's New York reminded me of what New York looked like to me when I visited during the eighties), Beaches is so eighties it could act as a future anthropologists' delight.
As to the reason why the film is called Beaches of all names, I suspect it is to do with key moments taking place on opposite USA coasts' beaches.
Best scene: Midler plays the role of an industrial devil surrounded by robots on a very eighties Off Broadway production. It reminded me of your typical eighties music video.
Overall: Entertaining enough to watch on a quiet evening by the fire. 3 out of 5 stars.

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