Midler and Hershey are Best Friends for Life
"Beaches" is a movie about friendship, about two young girls who meet briefly yet go on to become life long friends despite being complete opposites. They are there for each other through crisis no matter what. All of which makes "Beaches" sound like a total chick flick and frankly it is whilst also quite a sickly sweet one at that but it is also entertaining and exudes a surprisingly pleasant warmth. The level of how much you enjoy "Beaches" depends on how much you can associate with the characters, their trials and tribulations as well as their friendship and as such it is a movie which seems to split audiences, some lovw it wgilst others loathe it.
As she is preparing to give a concert, singer CC Bloom (Bette Midler - Big Business) receives a phone call causing her to frantically make her way to San Francisco. On the journey she thinks about how as a child she met Hilary Whitney (Barbara Hershey - Hoosiers) a well to do young girl and despite only spending a few hours together became life long friends, religiously writing to each other until one day when having both become adults are reunited. Despite more ups and downs their friendship grows stronger being there for each other when needed which is exactly why CC is now rushing to get to San Francisco.
For a movie which comes in just over the 2 hour mark it seems wrong to say that the storyline to "Beaches" is simple but it really is. We watch as these two young girls in the course of a few hours become friends and then spend the majority of their life writing to each other, meeting up at times, living together for periods, falling in love with men and so on and so forth. And as their friendship grows, becoming support for each other despite being quite different the story meanders to a predictable emotional, tear jerking climax. It's a nice storyline, sweet, tender, emotional and amusing but it isn't really that special or at least for me as I couldn't relate to it. And that is the thing this is a storyline which works best when you can relate to it be it, the best friends for life or the emotional climax.
Part of the reason why "Beaches" ends up over 2 hours and in my opinion too long is that director Garry Marshall drags out the ending far longer than is necessary. About 20 minutes before the credits roll there is a perfect ending, a nice point where "Beaches" should have ended but nope we get 20 minutes of extra scenes which really fail to add anything to the storyline just making it feel drawn out.
And it's not just the ending which causes "Beaches" to feel too long, various musical moments, scenes of humour or emotion all seem to last just a little too long. It makes "Beaches" feel drawn out from start to finish as it not so much lumbers along but feels like it's sauntering through scenes which would have greater impact without the long pauses and lingering camera shots.
But whilst the storyline has issues the performances disguise some of the issues. Bette Midler is on fine form as the ballsy Cecilia 'CC' Bloom delivering a full on performance, full of comedy and getting to delight with various musical numbers. Whilst Barbara Hershey is perfect as the beautiful and almost snobbish Hilary delivering that air of upper classiness perfectly. Together they make the chalk n cheese friendship work with believability when it comes to the more tender and caring scenes as they support each other. And whilst total polar opposites it's not that far fetched that they would end up such good friends, with CC providing the freedom which Hilary desires for.
The good performances don't just stop at Midler and Hershey as John Heard works perfectly as a mutual love interest and the casting of Mayim Bialik and Marcie Leeds as the child version of CC and Hilary is spot on.
The big problem is that at times the sentiment and emotion can be lost in the movie scene as director Garry Marshall tries too hard to craft the perfect scenes which endear to us. It means that certain important aspects of the relationship can be lost with all the fuss going on around. And when Marshall isn't over crafting a scene he goes the direct opposite laying the sentiment on in a heavy handed manner which borders on the cringe worthy.
What this all boils down to is that "Beaches" is an entertaining movie and despite being over 20 years old still stands up well. But it is one of those movies which appears to work best if you can associate yourself with either the characters or the trials and tribulations they go through, allowing you to become part of the story rather than just a casual observer. Never the less "Beaches" is still entertaining and Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey put in very good performances which help cover up some of the issues.