The Hot Flashes: Film Review

Katy Winn
"The Hot Flashes" premiere.
This would-be female empowerment tale suffers from cheap, pandering humor.

Susan Seidelman's ribald comedy concerns a group of middle-aged women who form a basketball team for charity.

Director Susan Seidelman memorably captured youthful restlessness and exuberance in such early films as Smithereens and Desperately Seeking Susan. But now that the filmmaker has reached a certain age, she no longer seems to have her finger on her generation’s pulse. Case in point: The Hot Flashes, a ribald comedy whose menopause-referencing title is all too indicative of its pandering humor.

Featuring the sort of contrived plotline that would seem designed for inevitable exposure on the Lifetime network, it concerns the efforts of middle-aged housewife Beth (Brooke Shields) to save her Texas small town’s — named Burning Bush, no less -- much-needed mobile mammography unit. While most sane people would come up with a car wash or bake sale, she decides that the best way to raise the necessary $25,000 is to persuade her old high school basketball teammates into reuniting as “The Hot Flashes” and challenging the high school championship girls’ team in a series of charity matches.

Although naturally reluctant, they all inevitably agree, so Beth finds herself on the court with the town’s African-American mayor, Florentine (Wanda Sykes); overweight biker chick and pothead Roxie (Camryn Manheim); closeted lesbian Ginger (Daryl Hannah), and “town slut” Clementine (Virginia Madsen), whose ex-husband happens to be coaching the opposing team. Their own coach is the local veterinarian (Mark Povinelli), who apparently possesses hoops skills even though he’s a little person.

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Predictable comic mayhem ensues, as the women overcome numerous obstacles — Roxie and Clementine are arch-enemies, Beth clashes with her teenage daughter and discovers that her unsupportive husband (Eric Roberts) is cheating on her with the mother of one of the opposing players — to eventually become media sensations interviewed by the likes of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts.

Brad Hennig’s screenplay features such less than delectable comic moments as Sykes karaoke singing Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” with new, menopause-themed lyrics and the women attending a self-help seminar in which the female speaker advises them that menopause is “when your inner goddess emerges” and that “menstruation is overrated.”

Although it’s refreshing to see a film populated by middle-aged actresses, the silliness to which they’re subjected to here is more dispiriting than inspirational. That said, the veteran cast goes through their paces with admirable professionalism, with Sykes unleashing her trademark profane, sardonic humor and Shields demonstrating that the years have done little to diminish her remarkable beauty.

Opens July 12 (Vertical Entertainment)

Production: The Hot Flashes LLC

Cast: Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen, Camryn Manheim, Wandy Sykes, Eric Roberts, Mark Povinelli, Jessica Rothenberg, Charlotte Graham

Director: Susan Seidelman

Screenwriter: Brad Hennig

Producers: Nina Henderson Moore, Brad Hennig, Susan Seidelman

Executive producers: Laurie Kraus Lacob, Jenny Johnson

Director of photography: Frank G. DeMarco

Editor: Keiko Deguchi

Production designer: Cecil Gentry

Costume designer: Carolina B. Marx

Composer: Marcelo Zarvos

Rated, R, 99 min.