September 17, 1990 12:00 PM

Diane Keaton, Carol Kane, Kathryn Grody

Too sweet and gummy as it is, this comedy is often a charming piece of quirk.

Expanded from an idea by Keaton, it is about three Atlantic City girls who develop a lifelong friendship. (The title could have been Daughters of Beaches.)

Keaton is the nervous one—asthmatic, paranoid, devoted to her late father’s schlocky museum of TV memorabilia. The eternally frizzier-than-thou Kane is a day-dreamer with a limited sense of the mechanics of life. Grody is the domestic one with three kids, a husband and her family taffy business to fret about.

The women’s movieload of crises begins when the club where they sing on Monday nights closes. Soon bankruptcies, boyfriend problems and relentless failure strike. Screenwriters Jeremy Pikser and Mo Gaffney give the three stars minimal script help.

“Do you want me to want to call you?” asks Keaton’s steadfast suitor, Rubén Blades. “If you want,” replies the chronically noncommittal Keaton.

The women make the most of the situation though. Keaton sings “Stop! In the Name of Love” in a clunky, sexy way. Kane does a campy, breathy version of “Wild Thing.” Grody balances Kane’s and Keaton’s extreme moments. Blades is admirable in his low-key passion, and Aidan Quinn, as Kane’s hustler of a would-be showbiz manager and lover, saves his character from pure weaseldom. As Grody’s husband, Elliott Gould is, well, Elliott Gould; he seems incapable of any but the broadest gestures. (Rachel Hill, Rachel Aviva and Kourtney Donohue, the three girls who play the young Grody, Kane and Keaton in flashbacks, deserve special mention.)

“The trick.” Grody says, “is to know what to let go of and what to hold on to.” In other words, devoted friendship can triumph. In other words, this is a universe with nary a mean-intentioned person. In a world of buddy-up-and-blast-away movies, we should be thankful for such small favors. (PG-13)

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