The First Wives Club is a 1996 comedy film, based on the best-selling 1992 novel of the same name by Olivia Goldsmith. Narrated by Diane Keaton, it stars Goldie Hawn, Keaton and Bette Midler as three divorced women who seek revenge on their husbands who left them for younger women. Stephen Collins, Victor Garber and Dan Hedaya co-star as the husbands, and Sarah Jessica Parker, Marcia Gay Harden and Elizabeth Berkley as their lovers, with Maggie Smith and Stockard Channing playing key supporting roles. Scott Rudin produced and Hugh Wilson directed; the film was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Despite generally negative critical reaction, the film became a surprise box-office hit following its North American release, eventually grossing $181,490,000 worldwide, mostly from its domestic run. Developing a cult following among middle-aged women, the actresses' highest-grossing project of the decade helped revitalize their careers in film and television. Composer Marc Shaiman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Music Score, while Hawn was awarded a Blockbuster Entertainment Award and both Midler and Parker received Satellite Award nominations for their portrayals.
At Middlebury College in 1969, four friends, Elise Elliot (Goldie Hawn), Brenda Morelli (Bette Midler), Annie MacDuggan (Diane Keaton), and Cynthia Griffin (Stockard Channing), are graduating. As graduation gifts, Cynthia (the valedictorian of the class) presents the girls with matching Bulgari pearl necklaces. As the graduates take a commemorative picture of the four of them (presumably for the last time), Cynthia makes Annie, Brenda and Elise promise that they will always be there for each other throughout the remainder of their lives. In the present time, the four friends eventually lose touch with one another, as evident when Cynthia is tearfully gazing at the picture of the four of them on that graduation day. She gives her maid a Bulgari pearl necklace (one of four she gave to her friends on graduation day), and she has her mail letters to her college friends. She later walks outside of the balcony of her luxurious penthouse in a floor length fur coat, a cigarette and a drink, and then commits suicide by jumping off the balcony after learning through the tabloids that her ex-husband married his much younger mistress the day before. Her former friends aren't doing much better: Brenda is divorced, left for a younger woman, depressed, and struggling financially. Elise, whose husband also left her for a younger woman, is now an aging alcoholic movie star who has become a plastic-surgery addict to keep her career afloat. Annie, meanwhile, is separated and going through therapy with her husband. Shortly after Cynthia's funeral, at which the three remaining friends are reunited for the first time since college, Annie's husband Aaron (Stephen Collins) leaves her for her younger therapist (Marcia Gay Harden) and asks her for a divorce; Brenda has a rather unpleasant encounter at a clothing store with her ex, Morty (Dan Hedaya) and his younger and rather hateful mistress Shelly (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Elise finds out that her soon-to be ex-husband, Bill (Victor Garber), is requesting alimony and half of their marital assets. Also, during a meeting with a director for a possible leading lady movie role, she discovers that she is only wanted for the mother of the leading lady. Shortly thereafter, the three friends receive the letter that Cynthia mailed to them before her suicide. After all three read their letter from Cynthia and feeling that they have been taken for granted by their husbands, the women decide to create the First Wives Club, aiming to get revenge on their exes. Annie's lesbian daughter Chris (Jennifer Dundas) also gets in on the plan by asking for a job at her father's advertising agency so she can supply her mother with inside information. Brenda finds out through her uncle Carmine (Philip Bosco) who has Mafia connections that Morty is guilty of income tax fraud, while Annie makes a plan to buy out Aaron's partners. However, as their plan moves through, things start to fall apart when they find out that Elise's ex Bill (Victor Garber) has no checkered past and nothing for them to use. Brenda and Elise hurl insults at each other, and the women drift apart. When Annie starts thinking about closing down the First Wives Club, her friends come back, saying that they want to see this to the end and they now have dirt on Bill: unknown to him, his mistress (Elizabeth Berkley) is a minor. Deciding that revenge would make them no better than their husbands, they instead use these situations to push their men into funding the establishment of a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding abused women, in memory of their college friend Cynthia. The movie ends with a celebration at the new women's center. Annie narrates that Elise started a relationship with a cast member in her new play, that Brenda and Morty reconciled their differences and got back together, and that when Aaron tried to get back together with her, Annie, she told him to "drop dead."