Beaches (Special Edition)

I popped the Beaches: Special Edition disc into my DVD player and began surfing around the extras while waiting for my wife to get to the couch from the kitchen. Like any dutiful DVD reviewer should, I clicked on the music video for Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings”, assuming it’d be done by the time my wife stopped concocting sandwiches behind our counter. “Stop!” she screamed from the kitchen. “Don’t play that!” she begged. Eager for any excuse to avoid hearing that I’m Bette Midler’s hero, I quickly complied while questioning the reason for her vehemence. “Because we’re going to hear that song at least a dozen times when we watch the movie, let’s not make it a dozen plus one.” Recognizing the logic in her words, I engaged in a pre-emptive cringe to prepare myself for the estrogen to come. The disappointing thing about Beaches is that it doesn’t contain slow motion shots of red-suited beach-babes running across a globe-trotting variety of sandy shores. Though the title is in the plural there’s only one beach in it, and bikini babes are nowhere to be found. A less sensitive man might suggest that “Beaches” is a substitute for a certain similar sounding term often used to derogatively address ill-tempered women. My feminine side tells me that this is not only rude, but unlikely.

Instead, this is the story of two women and a childhood friendship that lasts across a lifetime. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so it no doubt helps that these two best buds live on opposite coasts and rarely see one another. Young CC (Miyam Bialik) and Hillary (Marcie Leads) meet on a beach in Atlantic City. Hillary is the child of wealthy aristocrats on vacation; CC is a poor kid from the Bronx trying to break into show business by dancing and singing in a local kiddie show. The two become fast friends, and part promising to write each other. They do for nearly a decade until a now adult Hillary (Barbara Hershey) randomly shows up on a now adult CC’s (Bette Midler) humble, run-down New York doorstep looking for a place to stay.

The movie jumps off from their, showing their lives in brief snippets that capture the two friends whenever they come together. CC becomes wildly famous, Hillary becomes the pampered heiress she fought against becoming. They grow apart, come back together, repeat. There’s no specific plot here, except whatever is provided by exploring their somewhat unique friendship. Bette Midler is at her best, and seems to shine most in CC’s performances on stage, though she easily overshadows Hershey’s much more depressed, boring character whenever the two are together. She’s an effervescent, neurotic wise-cracker and seems comfortable in the role, probably because it’s her. They may be calling the character CC, but everything about her screams par for the course Bette Midler. Playing her is a snap.

Beaches is every bit as sappy and saccharine as you’d expect, but it works well enough as an emotion powered relationship flick. Great performances from Miyam Bialik and Bette Midler keep it interesting, and the script gets you involved enough in the characters that even though you see them only in snippets, you care a little about them towards the end. It’s a movie for a certain type of person, and caters specifically to that subset. It’s more about rampaging emotions than cohesive storytelling, scary stuff for any man. There are no surprises here, you don’t have to see it to know what it is. Beaches reputation as a chief representative of estrogen overload is well deserved. The dialogue is cheesy and unrealistic, the soundtrack grinds out heartstring pulling Midler hits. The movie knows its audience. Buy it for your wife and then earn points by watching it with her. You can take it. “Wind Beneath My Wings” does not play on this DVD’s menu screen. I appreciate Buena Vista’s restraint. Instead, the menu plays something soft and ubiquitous in the background while the menu itself shows an unnecessarily CGI’d picture of two canvas chairs sitting on a beach. Exciting stuff. This is a “Special Edition” disc though, so let’s get to whatever it is about it that makes it special.

It has something called a “Special Features” section, but what’s contained therein isn’t particularly special. They’ve included the theatrical trailer of course. It’s amazing how far trailers have come in the past few years. This one is horrible, it’s a wonder anyone saw the movie with that sort of advertising. There’s also the “Wind Beneath My Wings” music video I mentioned earlier. I tried to watch it, I deserve credit for that. Other short, forgettable snippets include Barbara Hershey’s screen test (testing opposite a freakishly untalented Bette Midler look-alike), a rather funny old Blooper Reel, and a lame AFI segment (But then everything AFI does is lame isn’t it?) featuring Bette Midler talking about the movie’s hit song “Wind Beneath My Wings”.

The meat of the thing, and what sort of justifies it as a special edition, is commentary with director Garry Marshall and a nice, extended piece called “Mayim Bialik Remembers”. Marshall is a commentary whiz, and though I wasn’t keen to watch the movie again, he made it palatable. He has an easygoing way of talking that puts you right at ease. His comments aren’t useless discussion of how good everyone looks, but smart, off the cuff details about the filming process mixed with light stories about what it took to get it made. Mayim Bialik’s interview is equally insightful. Beaches was her first major gig, and according to her in large part responsible for getting her own TV series, “Blossom”. Most shocking is Mayim’s appearance. She’s been out of the public eye a long time now, and has aged very poorly. Clad in frumpy clothes, sporting hair that probably hasn’t been washed in a year, she bears an eerie resemblance to a fat, female version of Richard Lewis. Even if you don’t listen to a word she says, there’s fun to be had in trying to figure out what that weird stain is on the left side of her face. Is it coffee?

For a Special Edition release, Beaches is a little thin. The disc isn’t a total waste though, and contains just enough in the way of extras to make it interesting. If you already own the previous bare bones release, there’s no reason to buy this one. But if you don’t already have it and wanted to, this is the version to pick up.