“Funny Girl” is Barbara Streisand’s first movie, breaking into film with a bang by winning an academy award for her efforts.
I had never seen it before until recently, and I admittedly have mixed feelings about this classic musical film from 1968.
First the good.
I have honestly never paid much attention to Streisand before, but I can see why she’s a star. She was terrific in this role – especially the first half (more on that later) and her singing is spectacular. She’s left us some memorable songs in Funny Girl – especially the delightful “Don’t Rain on my Parade” and the moving “People.” Streisand played the main role of Fanny Brice, whom she also played on Broadway starting in 1964.
Streisand plays an up-and-coming Vaudeville star who makes it big on Broadway by bringing her refreshing, candid, and funny charm onto stage. Act I of the movie is terrific – a great story of overcoming obstacles, being oneself, and standing out in a crowd so much that producer Zeigfreid can’t ignore her anymore (nor can he fire her because of her spunk and popularity.)
But then the film and the entire story comes screeching to a halt as it shifts from the rising stardom of Fanny Brice to her romantic involvement with gambler Nick Arnstein. The plot shift and focus made me lose interest. It was no longer a story of Broadway and fame. It was no longer a story of the “funny girl” who felt different from the others and didn’t see herself as beautiful. It’s a script that, in my opinion, definitely needs a re-write. Just as she started to break-through and be a star on Broadway, she suddenly had no career problems at all. Suddenly her producer loved her like a father. Suddenly all that mattered was the dim-witted gambler who continually made bad decisions.
Verdict? Is this musical film worth a watch? Yes, it is, simply to see Streisand in her younger glory.
But I recommend that you stay glued to the screen during Act I and go prepare your snacks during Act II.