Divorce New York Style

Three older female Hollywood stars unite for an all-star revenge comedy in The First Wives Club, featuring a story of three friends battling their ex-husbands after being dumped for younger women. A wicked battle-of-the-sexes satire based on Olivia Goldsmith’s outrageous novel, a veteran cast vamps it up on the screen for laughs with one-liners and a surprising amount of physical gags. Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton headline the incredible cast, including a pre-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker.

The supporting cast includes a litany of star performers such as Maggie Smith, Bronson Pinchot, Marcia Gay Harden, Rob Reiner, Stockard Channing, Elizabeth Berkley, and more celebrities. Bronson Pinchot is a riot as a trendy interior decorator. The performance by Sarah Jessica Parker is a trial run which likely got her the gig on Sex and the City.

Three older female Hollywood stars unite for an all-star revenge comedy in The First Wives Club

The First Wives Club comically tells the story of three older women dumped by their husbands – Annie (Diane Keaton), Brenda (Bette Midler) and Elise (Goldie Hawn). The three friends from college are first reunited after having lost touch when the wealthy Cynthia (Stockard Channing) commits suicide as a response to her ex-husband marrying his mistress. The three ladies face personal challenges of their own as they begin relying on each other for support. Thoroughly based in the upper society life of New York City, each woman discovers revenge is a dish best served with laughs while they empower themselves at the expense of their worthless husbands.

Beloved in some circles, the hit movie has spawned a musical, television series and helped inspire HBO’s Sex and the City. It’s a wish fulfillment fantasy on some level for older women, primarily enjoyable thanks to the all-star cast having a ball with their characters. Satirizing the foibles and pitfalls of marriage, and divorce, in NYC’s tony high life, the humor hits more often it misses.

There’s a certain segment who will eat up The First Wives Club’s message, even as its male characters are little more than cheap comedic fodder. It’s messy but often a delightful mess, especially if you enjoy the cast’s antics.

Video

Paramount strikes a new 4K film transfer from the original camera negative for The First Wives Club’s pleasing Blu-ray debut. The studio passed issuing the 1996 comedy on UHD but their 4K effort is now available on streaming services. Donald Thorin’s 1.85:1 cinematography boasts crisp, stately Hollywood filmmaking with excellent texture and rich black levels.

I can understand however why Paramount would pass on a UHD release. The First Wives Club is not demo material despite Paramount’s best efforts. There’s nice, resolving grain reproduction but the 1080p video has softer moments, a proper reflection of the era’s film stock. We get an unfiltered and untouched film scan from quality elements. The color correction offers a healthy contrast without overly saturating the palette. Damage is negligible and ringing is absent. The main feature runs 102 minutes on a BD-50, encoded in transparent and revealing AVC.

Fans should be quite happy with how the scan for The First Wives Club has turned out on BD. The video quality is better than expected, pulling as much detail and fine resolution as possible from its steady, if unspectacular, 4K image harvest.

Audio

Composer Marc Shaiman’s lightly adventurous score was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Score category, presented here in a simple 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The film’s biggest musical highlight are the three stars giving a freewheeling performance together of Lesley Gore’s hit “You Don’t Own Me.” It’s a rousing musical number with solid dynamics and extension.

More expressive sound design and mixing cues are heavily located in the front soundstage, remaining crisp and clean. Dialogue is always intelligibly reproduced. There isn’t much rear separation aside from a few stray musical bursts and gentle orchestral support.

Optional English, English SDH, and French subtitles play in a white font. A 5.1 Dolby Digital French dub and 5.1 Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio are secondary choices.

Extras

The First Wives Club makes its Blu-ray debut from Paramount courtesy of their high-end Paramount Presents line. It’s #32 in the collection, arriving in a clear case with a deluxe fold-out slipcover reproducing the original theatrical poster art. A HDX digital copy of the film is included which redeems on either VUDU or iTunes.

The only significant bonus feature is a new interview with screenwriter Robert Harling. Controlled by Paramount globally, the movie didn’t get any substantial extras on DVD.

Filmmaker Focus with Screenwriter Robert Harling (10:57 in HD) – Harling discusses the challenges of adapting Goldsmith’s novel and briefly addresses other pertinent topics, including the film opening on such a down note. Considering the brevity, a decent interview covering several interesting points.

The First Wives Club Theatrical Trailer (02:28 in SD) – A vintage, unrestored trailer from the 1990s.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the studio for review. This has not affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The First Wives Club
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Three older female Hollywood stars vamp it up in this all-star comedy romp from the 1990s

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:


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