Film & Television

The Wednesday Five—Women and the Art of Friendship on Film

Joy_luck_club_movie_castThe Joy Luck Club (1993)

Last week, as part of our series on the beauty of friendships among women, Suzanne Russell wrote about the intersection of art and friendship in The Tao of Friendship:

“As an artist and friend, Patty Hudak understood when I suddenly stopped making physical artwork in order to focus on giving free legal and social support to refugees in Denmark. She was one of the few people who understood that creating solutions to problems in individuals’ lives was similar to creating paintings or other art objects.” 

Yesterday, Eleanor Eleanor Foa Dienstag shared why she has been enthralled with the Elena Ferrante Neopolitan novels:

“Not since Doris Lessing’s autobiographical Martha Quest series,read a book so intensely focused on the inner complexities of what it is to be a modern woman as well as the contradictory emotions—love, jealousy, competitiveness, compassion—of female friendship.”

In this iteration of The Wednesday Five, we turn to the screen and share with you five compelling films (many of them adapted from the page) that pay homage to the gift that is the enduring friendships among women.



Steel Magnolias (1989)

Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Julia Roberts – come together as bosom buddies in this hilarious and heartwarming story of life, love and loss in a small Louisiana parish. At the center of the group is Shelby Eatenton (Julia Roberts), newly married and joyfully pregnant, despite the fact that her diabetes could make childbirth life-threatening. Terrified and angry at the possibility of losing her only daughter, M’Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) looks to her four closest friends for strength and laughter as she battles her deepest fear of death in order to join Shelby in celebrating the miracle of new life.



Joy Luck Club (1993)

The Joy Luck Club tells the story of four Chinese women and remarkable friends whose lifelong friendship reveals a mosaic of the startling events and conditions that have shaped their lives.  As they gather weekly to play mah-jongg and tell stories of their families, we learn about their journey since their arrival in the United States after World War II and their struggles in raising American daughters. 



Baghdad Cafe (1987)

Baghdad Cafe is a comedy set in a remote truck-stop café and motel in the Mojave Desert in  California.  It centers on two women who have recently separated from their husbands, the blossoming friendship that ensues, and the much-needed lessons they learn and teach each other.



A League of Their Own (1992)

Penny Marshall’s popular 1992 comedy sheds light on a little-known chapter of American sports history with its story of a struggling team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. It’s a conventional Hollywood sports story but the cast of women demonstrate both the complexity and fun of team dynamics.



Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett star in this touching film about four women who find joy through their rare and special relationship. Savannah, Bernadine, Robin and Gloria are all searching for true love. Bernadine thought she had it, until her husband left her for another woman. Savannah and Robin are successful in business but their love lives are bankrupt. And divorcee Gloria is getting back in the game by flirting with her new, very eligible neighbor. Yet what they each realize along the way is their own strength and agency.

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  • Mickey July 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    These films bring to mind the friendships I have that have endured for 30 years and more here in Tucson. One friend of a friend is in Rawanda and has been out of contact for weeks now. I’m concerned. Contact the Peace Corps of which organization Cynthia is a worker(?), member? My friend, Kim, says she’s not worried. Yet. Only other contact is a prickly brother. Kim is a multi-career activist. Wish I could send pictures of her truck! It was vandalized during the Bush/Cheney administration for her posting that they should be tried for war crimes. Angela is a behavioral therapist multi-tasker from the east. We circle around each other making connections at Mondo Monday at the Loft cinema and over a meal. And David! Our globe trotting friend with his friends who were members of our long ago dance event, Dance Jam. Chuck is in Chicago selling environmental friendly products. Bud is in Europe managing, producing, dancing. Their sister, Pam? I haven’t asked Kim who might know. How do our friendships go on, endure, live through thick and thin? Thank you.

  • Wendl in Manhattan July 29, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Especially glad you included Baghdad Cafe — one of the quirkiest, dearest, most tuneful movies ever, with a theme song that will haunt you.