Full disclosure: I love the original Beaches, with Bette Midler (my queen) and Barbara Hershey and Barbara Hershey's 1980s botox lips and a wee pre-Blossom, pre-PhD, pre-Big Bang Theory Mayim Bialik as tweenage CC Bloom, stealing smokes on the beach and getting sand all over her kiddie-vaudville costume.Unsurprising spoiler alert: Lifetime's 2017 version of kiddie CC does not smoke, which is just one of many, many updates and adjustments to this glossy (but certainly not glittery, because that might be construed as tacky) remake. 1950s Atlantic City is relocated to 1980s Venice Beach, California. Stage mother Leona becomes a frazzled shopkeep whose talented daughter panhandles without a permit rather than indulge in that old-time Hollywood tradition of working grueling hours in a dinky D-grade production in hopes of being "discovered."
Hilary Whitney ( Nia Long) undergoes the most dramatic transformation. Still the half-orphaned daughter of a hugely successful attorney, Hilary's first moments on our screens are not spent wandering among the crowds in a tearful panic over losing track of her nanny/aunt, but are spent delighting in CC's (Idina Menzell) street show, having intentionally ditched her minders and the boring, stuffy world of being human baggage on another one of daddy's work trips, to get out there and slum it in the real world.
It's Hilary who benefits the most from Lifetime's facelift and not just because the network decided turn stereotypes on their heads and portray their Hilary as a smart, classy black woman who succeeds her legendary father as formidable lawyer in her own right. Her's is not the story of a brainy black girl defying odds and pulling herself out of The Projects. This is a brainy black girl who went to stuffy boarding schools, had an au pair, and all the other trappings of a wealthy upbringing. Even in the wake of an era of unprecedented diversity, of eight years watching the Obama girls grow up in halls previously reserved for the whitest of the white girls, Nia Long's Hilary isn't a character we see very often, though we should.
Despite her privilege and opportunity, Lifetime's Hilary is given conflict that often felt glossed over in the original movie. Hershey's Hilary mentioned an overbearing, controlling father, but we never really saw him in action. The question of gender roles -- that Hilary was expected to marry a handsome lawyer who worked for her dad and watch him grow into the leadership role daddy once occupied -- worked well in OG Beaches' 70s interlude but there's something to be said for the nuance in Lifetime's late 90s/early 00s portrayal of CC and Hilary's (Long) tumultuous 20s. Hilary still ended up marrying a dude from her father's firm, but there was never any question that she would be the one to succeed her father, ladybits or no ladybits.
To say that CC suffers in comparison is unfortunate, because I really do enjoy what nu-Beaches does with it's revamp of Hilary Whitney-- allowing her to remain the more outwardly vulnerable and quiet of these two women while giving her a strength and fierceness of her own that was lost in the spectacle of CC. That's literally the entire message of "Wind Beneath my Wings"-- and we'll get to my way less gracious thoughts on that in a sec -- but there were definitely some good feelings over here watching Hilary be more of a force in her own story this time around instead of just an (incredibly important) part of CC's.
CC though...okay, look, I'm really bitter about "Otto Titsling" not making the cut here, and "Oh Industry" being replaced by what reminded me of a music video I once saw at 6am on VH1 circa 1998, and CC's humiliating pre-stardom gig being reduced to a boring bar mitzvah/wedding singer thing instead of the endearing WTF of dressing like a giant bunny rabbit to deliver singing telegrams. I get it. Lifetime's Beaches was built around Idina Menzel's music career as much as the original was built around Bette Midler's and to simply plop Menzel down in the campy, vampy, diva antics that Midler continues to embody so well would be...off.
Menzel's CC isn't without her own misadventures on the way to fame or her own struggle to get the cash and the cache without sacrificing that thing inside that makes her an artist. However, this is where the two Beaches are hopelessly divided: one is a classic and the other is an okay remake that gets the broad strokes right, but loses something in the translation. Beaches is ultimately, the epic story of an amazing friendship between two unlikely women. The stuff that makes and breaks a friendship isn't all sweeping moments of triumph or, alternately, betrayal. It's the little stuff, the mundane and the absurd. In the original Beaches, Hilary Whitney spent two hours dying her hair the exact same color as her natural 'do. That's such a minor and forgettable moment, in the big scheme of things, but also so very Hilary. When CC (both CCs) talk about their long memories, those are the memories they are talking about. Those are the anecdotes that are going to give Little Orphan Victoria the clearest idea of who her mother is in the coming years. Lifetime's Beaches skimped on those fleeting moments and gave us a sleek, updated story complete with a contemporary-- but unremarkable-- soundtrack (if you're looking for something in the vein of Idina Menzel's Frozen, Wicked, or Rent performances, please look elsewhere.)
This is a perfectly serviceable overview of what Beaches is and if you're five months pregnant, off your mood stabilizers, and guilty of taking the Orange One's inauguration as a personal insult, you may even manage to cry your eyes out at the end. Make no mistake though, this is the abridged edition of Beaches: faithful, but ultimately, lacking.
Lifetime's Beaches Remake: Was It Everything You Would Like It To Be?
Lifetime braved sacred waters on Saturday night, serving up a remake of Beaches, the fondly remembered 1988 feature film that starred Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.
In this version, Tony winner Idina Menzel and Nia Long played CC Bloom and Hillary Whitney, who as young girls first met not in Atlantic City but on the Venice Beach boardwalk, where they instantly formed a friendship that would first be tested by distance. Yet despite Hillary attending boarding school across the country in Connecticut, and then attending Harvard, the two stayed in touch via letters and email.
Hillary would ultimately bail on toiling for her father’s law firm and instead pay CC a visit, crashing at her very modest apartment. Things went swimmingly until John, the director of the musical CC landed the lead in, set his sights on Hillary. Though the besties weathered that brief storm of jealousy, Hillary would move back East to rekindle things with beau Brian, while CC segued into a starring role on the (dreadful-looking) sitcom Pretty Sinners. As CC’s star rose, the two grew apart — especially when CC was a no-show for both Hillary’s wedding and her father’s funeral. When Hillary made it to L.A. for the premiere of CC’s sitcom, that led to an awkward dinner for them, with John and Brian, until the ladies eventually had it out the next day over brunch. CC argued that Hillary said she would be “coming back” to California, while Hillary taunted CC for her “relationship of convenience,” grabbing John on the rebound from her.
The two scrapped their friendship and went their separate ways, until each of their romances crumbled — John didn’t want to be the dutiful “wife” of a TV star, while Hillary caught baby-resistant Brian with another woman. On top of it all, Hillary was pregnant. The two recommitted to their friendship, as evidenced by CC bailing on a Pretty Sinners comeback to be there for Tory’s birth, and then her racing out of a concert rehearsal upon learning that Hillary has been rushed to the hospital after collapsing.
Afflicted, as her mother had been, with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and possessing rare Type O blood, the prospect for Hillary did not look good, so CC moved East for the summer to take care of her and (slowly but surely) bond with adolescent Tory. After asking CC to take care of Tory (“You’ll be great, eventually”), Hillary passed away in her sleep. Days later, after scattering Hillary’s ashes into the ocean (as “Wind Beneath My Wings” plays), CC invited Tory to come live with her in California. Tory hesitated briefly, but only because she feared CC will change her mind. “No way!” she reassured. “Your mom was stuck with me for 30 years. Now you’re stuck with me, too.”
'Beaches' remake doesn't achieve liftoff on Lifetime
It's likely that all most people remember about "Beaches" is the three-hankie finish and Bette Midler belting out "The Wind Beneath My Wings." Perhaps not surprisingly, Lifetime's mostly dutiful remake of the 1988 hit is something of a slog through the first two-thirds, periodically lifted by Idina Menzel's golden pipes.
Menzel -- best known for "Wicked" and her vocal chops in "Frozen" -- assumes the Midler role, CC, playing an aspiring star who begins a lifelong friendship as a kid with Hillary (Nia Long), in this update a somewhat buttoned-up civil-rights attorney.
The two keep in touch through the years via texts and emails (letters are so 1960s), as CC chases stardom and Hillary pursues a more sedate, less public life, with each harboring certain resentments and jealousies toward the other that are set aside when Hillary falls ill.
By that point, Hillary has married, divorced and had a daughter (an adorable Sanai Victoria), who CC will help raise. The two-moms theme frankly feels a bit dated, as does the early portion of the movie devoted to CC's professional struggles, which include crooning commercial jingles and singing at a Bar Mitzvah while quietly muttering, "Kill me now."
At that bar mitzvah the two women meet a dreamy theater director (Antonio Cupo), who winds up briefly caught between them. "You got him by default, and you know it," Hillary snaps cattily, indicative of the fractious nature of the central female-bonding relationship.
Still, almost everything that happens is essentially an appetizer before getting to the main course. Menzel's singing -- including a rather perfunctory music-video version of "Wind," as well as "The Glory of Love" and other songs -- does provide compensation for wading through the melodrama, although frankly, DVR-ing and zapping to those parts would be the more time-effective option.
Far from existing in a vacuum, "Beaches" washes ashore amid a wave of nostalgic '70s and '80s revivals -- in this case, reprising a film that delivered a hit song and strong box-office results but is remembered mostly for its high schmaltz factor.
Seen that way, the lure of providing Menzel an opportunity to let loose on these familiar tunes is more than enough to qualify as a win for Lifetime, even if the movie itself -- that famous wind notwithstanding -- never achieves liftoff.