It’s astounding that, even thirty years since its release, “Beaches” is still an effective tearjerker. Tracing the thirty-year-plus friendship between Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, Garry Marshall’s comedy-drama is filled with memorable moments, and it’s probably not an accident that most of them belong to Midler. From beginning to end, the multi-talented performer treats the material like a one-woman audition tape, and it’s a delight to watch her perform a variety of superior numbers, like “Otto Titsling” and “Oh Industry,” that give her plenty of opportunities to shine. Hershey doesn’t fare as well, not just because she has the less showy role but because she doesn’t seem quite comfortable in the role, but she has enough chemistry with Midler to make it work. Near the beginning, Mayim Bialik plays Midler’s character as a child, and it’s amazing how much she looks, acts, and sounds like Midler, which makes the character’s arc all the more compelling. The final ten minutes are perhaps a bit overlong, with a few endings too many maring the movie’s otherwise smooth flow, but by that point it’s accrued so much good will that it’s not enough to stain this otherwise entertaining and satisfying crowd-pleaser.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)