The 1988 classic movie Beaches starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey is likely one of the best loved films in the last 30 years. Guaranteed to make you laugh and cry, the film featured a soaring soundtrack and introduced a young Mayim Bialik to the masses. When word got out that Lifetime was remaking the movie for the small screen, fans of the original Beaches held their collective breaths, perhaps worried that their much-beloved film would be desecrated.
The wait for the curious and for the worried is nearly over; Lifetime will be airing the remake on January 21, 2017, and it seems that the movie has been updated to better reflect how time has changed since the original came out.
“If it can open a new discussion at this time about where women are, and how we balance and navigate all of these passions we have and ourselves, career, and our family, I think it’s similar to back then, but I think things have changed,” star Idina Menzel noted. “It’s just another way to start a conversation.”
Menzel will be playing the Midler-originated role of CC Bloom, and instead of being a Broadway star, Bloom is trying to make her name known on the West Coast. Nia Long plays Hillary, the role originated by Barbara Hershey, and as if Menzel's casting wasn't remarkable enough, Long stepping into the role of Hillary speaks to the way friendship transcends issues of race. It's a beautiful way to update Beaches for a 21st century audience, given the increasing exposure that diversity throughout the world is getting.
“I think Beaches having an inter-racial friendship, without any discussion of race, is an important thing to do," said Beaches executive producer Denise Di Novi. "Just showing strong female characters, whatever the story is, showing a woman balancing work and family, they don’t have to be a dose of medicine. I think we have a responsibility to reflect the world we live in and the world we live in is diverse.”
This Beaches focuses on the theme that "not all strength is loud," and it's a nice acknowledgement of the slightly different tone that the television movie takes on from the one that aired on the silver screen. Where Beaches of 1988 saw Bette Midler tearing up the scenery as the protective friend who refused to let Hillary give up, Lifetime's version of the character is a little quieter and more in keeping with Menzel's persona. There are moments of kookiness because how could you picture Beaches without those moments where you'd be breathless with laughter? There are also those moments where there's almost a stillness to the scene, and it's in part due to the personalities of Long and Menzel taking hold in the characters of Hillary and CC respectively.
Anyone looking for an exact replica of the original film might want to look elsewhere; there is a sense that things are moving a little faster in this version of Beaches, and that is in part because it's designed for television. A two-hour movie suddenly becomes closer to 90 minutes in no small part due to the advertising that happens on television, and while Beaches of 2017 certainly moves at a good clip, Long and Menzel do a beautiful job in establishing the relationship between Hillary and CC, and when the two ultimately fight, there is a sense of loss, just as there is a sense of victory when the two women find their way back to each other and are best friends for the rest of their lives.
While there are some notable changes to this Beaches, these do little to detract from the power of the overall story, and that was something Di Novi and Menzel both wanted to protect. Di Novi noted that there was a whole generation of kids who hadn't seen the original Beaches, and Menzel and Long had an opportunity to introduce them to a story that was, at its heart, about girl power and the strength that can come from friendship.
"I think very few women will tell you they would’ve made it through life without their best female friend, or their best friend," she said. "So the truth of that and the power and how special female friendships are was really the reason to make it. Every scene that supported that was important.”
Here is Menzel's rendition of "Glory Of Love" from Beaches on Lifetime: