The Mirror has Two Faces (15)

Directed by Barbra Streisand
Starring Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges, Lauren Bacall, Pierce Brosnan, Mimi Rodgers

Supposedly fairytale romance about an ugly duckling type of woman, who finds happiness, true love etc when she turns into that swan. However, it really is a loving sycophantic homage to Streisand, and the creepy thing is, the devoted fan is Streisand herself!
She plays English professor Rose who meets up with boring Maths prof, Gregory(Bridges). He has decided that he wants a sex-free relationship as that is what causes all the troubles in life. The pair get married, but remain celibate. Greg is happy and even begins to fall for Rose, but she wants to hurry things as she is genuinely in love with him. A failed seduction causes Rose to walk out and Greg to disappear off to Europe. While he's gone she goes to the gym and gets her hair done and tries again to seduce him on his return. After another faliure Rose seems to be heading for another man, but Greg realizes that he really does love her. Cue soppy ending.

This film had the possibility of being a nice romantic comedy for grown ups, but there are many, MANY flaws. Firstly, the plot is straight out of something in black and white from the 40s starring Ginger Rogers. It is silly and unbelievable. Secondly, virtually all the characters are poorly drawn and unrealistic. They talk and act in cliches. Streisand's supposed transformation is extremely funny- but for the wrong reasons. She goes from being attractively bookish to tarty and with that horrible 70s perm we thought she'd ditched along with Barry Gibb. No wonder Jeff Bridges still complained. This idea that a new 'do and some make up and some obligatory gym workout scenes will make all the difference is just daft.
Taking a break from the gripes, there are good things in this movie. Some of the quiter scenes between Streisand and Bacall are definitely worth seeing. It is wonderful to see such a classy lady as Bacall in films again, and she has a ball here. However, many of these conversations are concentrated on Streisands obssession with being told she is/is not pretty. Brosnan and the sadly undervalued Mimi Rogers are wasted in minor roles that seem to ensure no one will outshine the star. But the final straw for me, as a teacher myself, was to see Streisand at work. Her students sat enraptured, every seat was full of her fan club members masquerading as students, hanging on her every word, laughing at every mild unfunny joke and then bursting into applause and cheering at the end. WHAT CRAP!!
For non-fans of Babs this film would be torture, for big fans of hers, it would be heavenly. For people who quite like her, like me, this film is a big let down. It is one big vanity trip, with never a bad camera angle and a constant soft focus. Her character is portrayed as the perfect woman, the perfect teacher, the perfect sister, and only not a perfect daughter because Mother Bacall is so outrageous. Poor Jeff Bridges is a talented actor who gets a very one dimensional role. We even get George Segal making an appearance. Streisand's pullling power I guess. Cliches galore, from flowers and candles to a daft gag about Puccini accompanying a clinch. So contrived.
If you are in the mood for something very mind numbingly gentle and slushy, and you are into big noses you may enjoy this, but I do really wonder if there is a more self indulgent film maker working at the moment. Even the sight of Woody Allen's ever younger screen partners are ususally accompanied by a certain self-depreciating wit. Here it is I Love Me all the way from Babs.
Mention of a mirror inevitably brings to mind that wicked queen who would demand of her mirror, 'who is the fairest of them all?' And would accept only one answer. 'You my queen.' Is Streisand doing the same thing only using celluloid instead of a magic mirror? Another mythological figure who springs to mind when you mention mirrors is Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. Hmm..Watch out Barbra! 5/10

January 1997

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