Fun fact, the original Beaches, starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, is my favorite movie of all time. I consider it one of Garry Marshall’s best films (take that Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries) and I’ll fight anyone who says it’s not a cinematic masterpiece.
Suffice it to say, I was more than a little skeptical when I saw that Lifetime, the home of all of those horrible biopics that have been coming out the last few years, was doing a remake of the film. While I appreciated the effort to make the retelling of the story more modern and diverse by casting Nia Long as Hillary Whitney, now the daughter of a Black civil rights lawyer who eventually goes on to be one herself, I still wasn’t sure this film needed to be redone. I’ve never been a fan of redoing movies that were seemingly done right (or at least halfway decent) the first time and I worried it would simply be a stale retelling of the 1988 film.
I’m pleased to say I wasn’t totally right. Don’t get me wrong, the updated Beaches still has its flaws and it will never be the original, but all things considered, it was at least worth sitting through once. Maybe eventually I’ll add it to my “I just want to curl up in bed and watch a movie” list. Nia Long and Idina Menzel hold their own as C.C. Bloom and Hillary Whitney, the film’s unshakable duo, although I did miss the side characters that seemingly got shaved out of this version’s cast (more than likely for time). C.C.’s mother was a favorite of mine who was eliminated all together and John, the love interest who is shared between Hillary and C.C., seems much flatter and doesn’t get nearly as much screentime, despite being an interesting, albeit brief, foil to C.C.’s success and wealth-driven ambition. An unexpected bright spot in the new cast was Sanai Victoria, who I felt was a much better actress and made Hillary’s daughter Victoria more compelling and sympathetic than she was in the original.
My main issue with Beaches was that it was a TV movie and was paced as such, which meant this movie was a bit more jolting and plot points got cut short or eliminated all together. The setting was also changed from New York to Los Angeles and this gives the story a more polished feel. Unfortunately this isn’t always a good thing. I especially missed the grit of New York City during the scenes where C.C. and Hilary were living together. I just couldn’t buy the idea that these were two young women getting their start living their dreams in condo-like apartments with palm trees swaying just outside.
There were also a few times where the dialogue just didn’t feel authentic, or made the characters seem more like caricatures. Specifically with Idina Menzel, whose attempt at pulling off a brash but soft-hearted C.C. came across as more insecure and whiny. There were also a few recycled lines that felt a little bit less authentic this go around.
But the good thing about the movie is that it never set out to be a carbon copy of the original. The most similar aspects were more off putting but the differences, namely the updated time period and the diversity, were fun and refreshing. So if you’re feeling nostalgic but looking for something new, or if this is your first introduction to the film, Lifetime’s remake of Beaches may be a good starting point.