Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1988. All Girl Productions, Silver Screen Partners IV, Touchstone Pictures. Screenplay by Mary Agnes Donoghue, based on the novel by Iris Rainer. Cinematography by Dante Spinotti. Produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer, Bette Midler, Margaret South. Music by Georges Delerue. Production Design by Albert Brenner. Costume Design by Robert De Mora. Film Editing by Richard Halsey. Academy Awards 1988.
Bette Midler‘s career as producer got off to a terrific start with this smash box office success. She plays a brash, charismatic singer, Jewish from humble New York beginnings, who maintains a close friendship with a conservative Connecticut WASP (Barbara Hershey) from childhood through to their adult years. In between their few opportunities to actually see each other, they maintain a relationship through letters except when crises demand that they be together. It’s a heartfelt film with boisterous performances that completely override director Garry Marshall’s inability to bring truth to the soap opera being presented. Mary Agnes Donohue’s screenplay is a watered-down version of Iris Rainer Dart’s original novel, but it is also less melodramatic than the novel was. Add a bright soundtrack (with songs all sung by Midler) and a real sense of the bond of friendship at the heart of the fluffier elements going on here and you have a good understanding of its wide appeal. Mayim Bialik, later the star of television’s hit series Blossom, does a frighteningly good job of being a younger version of Midler in the film’s early scenes (though recently revealed that her singing was dubbed at Miss Midler’s request).