LOS ANGELES – The floodgates are being reopened.
It’s no surprise that Lifetime has remade “Beaches,” Garry Marshall’s 1988 tear-jerker about the resilience of female friendship through thick and thin (along with screaming matches, jealousy and fatal disease).
Considering that the film still burns bright in people’s memories, you’d think the new version would toy a little with the formula, perhaps trace the bond between two gay men or turn “Wind Beneath My Wings” into a hip-hop number.
No such risks here. Aside from pairing white actress Idina Menzel with black actress Nia Long and having the two characters correspond by text, the TV update doesn’t mess much with the recipe of the Bette Midler-Barbara Hershey original.
That’s a bit of a disappointment because the director is Allison Anders, who burst onto the scene in the early 1990s with bold, original projects like “Gas Food Lodging” and “Grace of My Heart.” But Anders may be getting sentimental in her middle age.
“I actually did not see the movie when it first came out, because I was coming up in the scrappy, post-punk generation of the American indies,” she said. “Hollywood films, I didn’t see that stuff. So when this came around, and I saw Garry Marshall’s version for the first time, I was blown away, because I was like, Omigod. This is like raw art, compared to what women get to do on the screen now. It was completely female-driven, as ours is.”
So the basic story remains the same: Aspiring singer CC Bloom (Menzel) meets luckless Hillary (Long) on Venice Beach as 11-year-olds. They become instant gal pals and then scrap and sob through one soap-opera plot after another, climaxing in a verbal catfight after CC puts her budding career ahead of Hillary’s wedding and father’s death.
“Loving you from a distance is better than resenting you in this room,” snarls CC in a scene that should ring true for anyone who has felt betrayed by a bestie — or watched an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
CC eventually sets aside her selfishness to stand by her friend after a life-threatening diagnosis, and belt out Midler’s big song “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Producer Denise Di Novi said that while there are nods to more modern times — CC gets a chance to perform on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show,” for example — there was no reason to do a major overhaul.
“The most important thing was to stay truthful to how deeply important female friendships are,” she said. “As relationships and jobs come and go, there are very few women that would have made it through life without their best female friend. So the truth of that and the power of that was really the reason to make it.”
That doesn’t mean its stars didn’t have some reservations.
“I saw the movie back in high school with two of my best friends,” said Menzel, who starred in the original Broadway production of “Wicked” and played Elsa in “Frozen.” “We cried our eyes out in the movie theater, so it’s quite a nostalgic memory for me.
“But if I’m being completely honest, I was terrified to do it at first, because I love the movie. And both those women, especially Bette Midler, was an idol my whole life. It’s a daunting task. But, no pun intended, I felt like I could spread my wings in this role. And so after saying no to myself 12 times, I finally gave into it.”
The hope is that a new generation will be more likely to view a brand-new take rather than borrow their parents’ dusty DVD, if only to see what the woman who sang “Let It Go” looks like in real life.
Menzel herself knows the feeling: “I have a niece who actually said, ‘Julia Roberts? Who?’ And I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’
“There is really a whole young generation of kids that have not seen ‘Beaches’ and maybe Nia and I 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.”