This collection of three epochal films from Barbra Streisand's film career all share the swooning romanticism that has become her cinematic trademark as both actress and filmmaker. All succeed in satisfying her fans even if there are undeniable lapses that may try the patience of other viewers.
The earliest is 1973's "The Way We Were", which has becomes an emotional touchstone for a generation who saw it as the ultimate opposites-attract romance. Director Sydney Pollack does an exceptional job in delineating the somewhat preposterous love story, and he guides Streisand to one of her most subtle and touching performances. Veteran screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote a strong, multi-dimensional character for her in Katie Morosky. It's quite a journey from young Communist college radical in the late thirties to glamorous Hollywood wife in the early fifties, but Streisand seems fully committed in conveying her character's idealism and blind idolatry. Matching her every step of the way is Robert Redford, who was then at the peak of his matinee idol popularity as well. He smartly underplays the lionized Hubbell Gardiner, fleshing out a character that could have remained a cipher but instead seems to understand his own limitations. It's interesting how all the other characters fade completely in the background as a result of the mega-wattage generated by the star coupling.
In essence, the movie consists of three distinct parts: the college years when they first make impressions on each other, the WWII years when they meet again and start an unlikely romance, and the Hollywood years when they are married and get mired in the studio system. The first two parts are excellent and filled with memorable moments. When the story moves to Hollywood, the movie gets a bit more problematic. The star-crossed couple is challenged by the revelation to Hubbell's studio that Katie was a former Communist, which in turn makes Hubbell, now a rising screenwriter, a target for blacklisting. What should have been the most interesting part of the film becomes muddled as to what exactly is happening to cause their inevitable break-up. Ironically though, the film's most powerful scene is in this section, the train station confrontation between Katie and Hubbell over people and their principles.
But bottom line, there is no narrative connection between the Hollywood blacklist and their separation, which just seems odd given the build-up of the story to that point. I am not certain whether reinstating several crucial scenes (cut at the last minute by Pollack) would have helped after seeing some of them in the extensive and insightful documentary included as part of the DVD package, "The Way We Were: A Look Back". I have to agree with Pollack (and disagree with Streisand) that the deleted scenes don't really fit in with the pacing and emotionalism during this part of the movie even though they do provide added context. Of course the coda outside the Plaza Hotel is still classic, mainly due to the brevity of dialogue, the swooning Marvin Hamlisch music and the tear-jerking stares and gestures.
The second film is 1991's "The Prince of Tides". In only her second directorial effort (after "Yentl"), Streisand proves to be a masterful storyteller with an almost exaggerated romantic sensibility and an unfettered preoccupation with psychoanalysis. She obviously found the perfect vehicle in Pat Conroy's epic novel about Tom Wingo, a Southerner whose failing marriage and career reflect a deep suppression of an abusive childhood, the memories of which are triggered by his twin sister's suicide attempt. That the story revolves around a man's personal crisis versus a woman's may strike some as odd given Streisand's particularly female perspective, but she actually makes Tom's complex personal journey resonate with greater sensitivity as a result. In fact, the emotionalism Streisand invests in her musical performances is very much in evidence here, and her lush, almost Baroque style fits the contours of this soap opera very well.
The movie is helped immeasurably by a galvanizing performance from Nick Nolte, who captures all the layers of pride, regret, anger, sadness and humiliation in his character. He propels the storyline with the unbridled passion of an actor sinking his teeth into a juicy part as only a female director could define it. In fact, Streisand steps back to play the subordinate role of Dr. Susan Lowenstein, the pricey New York psychiatrist treating Tom's sister, Savannah. It is probably her most subtle work onscreen even with the touches of excess that often detract from her performances. She also hands out plum parts to both the wonderful Kate Nelligan, who gets to age convincingly as Tom's upwardly driven mother with a dark secret, and Blythe Danner, dependably effective as Tom's conflicted wife. Both especially excel in their revelatory conversations with Tom, the dialogue insightful without delving too much into psychobabble. Credit should be given to Conroy and Betsy Johnston, who wrote the superb screenplay.
The movie is not without flaws. First, after a powerfully cathartic scene that feels like the movie's climax, the story shifts to an inevitable affair between Tom and Lowenstein and a flagrant detour into Lowenstein's own catharsis, which brings up valid questions about her character's professionalism in even having an intimate relationship with a patient. This part of the story is Streisand at her most self-indulgent as both director and actor, as we follow these two smitten people on gauzy romantic walks and sweaty lovemaking by candlelight. Regardless, it's an impressive accomplishment to translate Conroy's lengthy, often florid narrative into a cohesive movie that retains the major themes of its source material, and Streisand has done a splendid job in pulling it all together.
The last movie is the weakest of the trio, 1996's "The Mirror Has Two Faces", still her last starring vehicle. While she shows a sure hand in maneuvering the inevitable shenanigans of a romantic comedy, the multi-hyphenated legend lets her intractable need to convey serious-minded, self-esteem-oriented messages weigh this 1996 movie down considerably. At an epic length of 130 minutes, the story, adapted by Richard LaGravenese from a forgotten 1958 French film, is quite slight as it focuses on Rose Morgan, a wildly popular Columbia literature professor but also a fortyish, baseball-obsessed frump long in the shadow of her beautiful sister Claire and glamorous mother Hannah. Her lot in life seems crystallized at Claire's wedding when she weds Rose's longtime crush Alex. Meantime, Columbia mathematics professor Gregory Larkin tires of bedding beautiful women who rile him toward irrational acts and wants to find a homely woman with whom he can have a platonic, intellectually-focused friendship and eventually a chaste marriage. Greg places a personals ad to which Claire responds unbeknownst to Rose. The budding relationship between Rose and Greg turns on the inevitable moment when Rose seeks intimacy from a disinterested Greg. This leads to a physical transformation and a message-driven finale.
As Rose, Streisand is quite good and sympathetic most of the way, even if she never looks terribly frumpy and overdoes her character's magnetic speaking skills in the lecture hall. Like the yearning Barbra of long ago, she achieves a palpable sadness when she feels humiliated on her wedding night. However, once Rose transforms herself, Streisand's ego takes over as her blonde highlights and aerobicized body bring back the execrable, soft-focus treatment from the lovemaking scenes in "The Prince of Tides". Looking more like his uni-browed brother and father as he grows older, Jeff Bridges plays Greg as a befuddling stereotype who grows more unrealistic as the story evolves. At the time of release, Lauren Bacall received all sorts of kudos as Hannah, though it is a relatively superficial performance in a showy role except for a wonderfully brave, make-up-free scene where Hannah admits to Rose how she valued her beauty while it lasted. Mimi Rogers provides sharp bite as Claire, while Pierce Brosnan lends the necessary smarminess to the shallow Alex and George Segal (Streisand's one-time co-star in "The Owl and the Pussycat") is relegated to a dispensable best-pal role.
This is a worthy collection for any Streisand fan.
on March 20, 2005
This is a nice value packed DVD with three of Barbra Streisand's movies. This includes THE WAY WE WERE (1973), THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991) and THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES (1996).
She stars opposite Robert Redford in THE WAY WE WERE, a movie which won Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song ("The Way We Were") in 1973, she was also nominated for Best Actress. It's an interesting movie, and great love story, about two star crossed lovers whose marriage is tested during turbulent times.
In THE PRINCE OF TIDES she acts opposite Nick Nolte. Barbra directed this movie. In this movie she plays a psychiatrist who falls in love with one of her patient's brother. THe movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.
In THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES, she stars along with Jeff Bridges in a nice romantic comedy. Streisand directed, produced and came up with the concept of the movie and co-wrote the Oscar nominated song "I Finally Found Someone" (duet with Bryan Adams. The movie is about two professors who become best friends and decide to marry unconventionally without sex to complicate things. However, things get complicated when she realizes she needs passion in her life, and that friendship just isn't enough.
Overall three great movies in a value packed DVD collection! Streisand is more than a capable actress, and these are great movies to add to your collection. Well worth the money!
on June 28, 2012
The Way We Were is just a fantastic movie. It seems to have a lot of activity and events swirling around, but the heart of the movie to me, is two people with vastly different personalities, as well as friends..appearance, etc. colliding, due to the feeling each has, that something is missing within themselves. They're both trying to figure out their own personalities, by way of each other. When they were together as a couple, both were actually internally fighting who they really were as individuals. Apart, they are free to be themselves...a tear jerker every time.
Ahh, The Prince of Tides. A must watch for me anytime I'm in the low country or longing for the low country! A total chick flick that needs a comfy throw and a bowl of popcorn!
The Mirror Has Two Faces...stays neatly in it's packaging.