At a time when connections are often fleeting, we may find ourselves warmed by certain depictions of positive connections. The enduring friendship depicted in both the 1985 novel and 1988 film adaptation of Beaches serves as a reminder of the transformative power of companionship. Iris Rainer Dart’s touching novel and its iconic movie counterpart have captured the hearts of audiences for decades, weaving a narrative that beautifully illustrates the depth and complexity of friendship.
The Story in Beaches the Novel
Set against the backdrop of 1952 Coney Island, the story unfolds as the vivacious and ambitious Cee Cee meets the sweet-natured and introverted Bertie during a summer by the Atlantic shore. The contrast between their personalities only deepens their bond, creating a magnetic pull that weaves their lives together for decades to come. After describing their chance meeting when they were young, the novel —composed of both letters and narration — follows the maturation of the girls and their developing friendship.
Dart’s novel maintains a level of relevance for many of its readers, regardless of their backgrounds. Its diverse presentation of female experiences, relationships, and emotions allows readers to see themselves in the characters and their stories. The novel observes the power of female friendships, the importance of self-discovery, and the resilience that defines many women’s journeys. The emotional depth of the story — including themes of love, loss, regret, and forgiveness — strikes a chord with many readers.
The novel’s overarching theme is the spontaneous nature of friendship. It begins with the chance encounter of young Cee Cee Bloom and Bertie White at the beach. Despite their differences, they form an instant connection. Despite the differences in their passions and socio-economic backgrounds, this initial meeting sets the foundation for their lifelong friendship. It portrays the idea that friendships can form unexpectedly and thrive even when people come from contrasting backgrounds.
The story also covers giving and receiving support through adversity. As the story progresses, both Cee Cee and Bertie face their share of personal challenges. Cee Cee pursues an acting career and struggles with the cutthroat nature of the industry. Bertie, on the other hand, battles health issues as a hardworking lawyer and single mother. Despite the obstacles, their friendship remains a constant source of support at the most difficult of times.
The novel’s most heartbreaking theme is that of facing mortality. As Bertie’s health deteriorates, the novel navigates the emotional journey of dealing with mortality. Cee Cee’s struggle to come to terms with Bertie’s impending death is a heartrending portrayal of the profound impact of a lifelong friendship. This theme prompts readers to reflect on the inevitability of loss and the importance of cherishing moments with loved ones.
This leads to the next theme, unconditional love. One of the most poignant aspects of the story is the portrayal of Cee Cee’s unconditional love for Bertie’s daughter, Nina. After Bertie’s tragic passing, Cee Cee steps in to become a mother figure for Nina, showcasing the lengths to which friendship can extend to family bonds. This highlights the idea that chosen family can be as important, if not more, than biological connections.
Film Adaptation (1988)
When Beaches made its way to the silver screen in 1988, the friendship between Cee Cee and Bertie was translated into an equally touching visual experience. The big screen adaptation further amplifies the essence of their connection, with unforgettable performances by Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey that breathe life into Cee Cee and Bertie (renamed “Hillary” in the film), respectively. From their initial meeting on a beach boardwalk to the bittersweet conclusion, the chemistry between the characters is palpable.
In both its literary and cinematic forms, Beaches invites us to celebrate the beauty of enduring relationships that stand the tests of time, showcasing the profound impact that one person can have on another’s journey. Through their laughter, tears, and unbreakable bond, Cee Cee and Bertie remind us that in a world of constant change, friendship remains a constant force of strength, solace, and unwavering love.
For a look at some admirable fictional friendships, click here!