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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Barbra Streisand Collection (review)

She’s the pop diva against which all others are measured, and that extends to her adventures in movie-stardom, too. With her flair for madcap comedy and a compelling intensity in dramatic roles, Barbra Streisand puts the likes of J.Lo and Britney to shame, as this collection demonstrates beautifully. Two 1972 films — Peter Bogdanovich’s goofy What’s Up, Doc? and Irvin Kershner’s dramedy Up the Sandbox — cast Babs as two very different spirited, independent women: a force-of-nature ne’er-do-well, half of a delightful screwball duo with Ryan O’Neal; and a mother and wife struggling to retain her sense of self under the demands of family life. Howard Zieff’s 1979 comedy, The Main Event, is a strained attempt to recapture the Streisand-O’Neal chemistry of Doc, but its presence here is more than made up for by the inclusion of Martin Ritt’s 1987 Nuts. This bold, unapologetic film sees Streisand’s high-priced prostitute defiantly maintaining her sanity while the legal system and her family try to take it away — the power in this courtroom drama comes not from the accusation of murder against her but from her defense of the charge that she’s mentally incompetent. This tale of a woman who refuses to be a victim, refuses to acquiesce to what a “good girl” is supposed to be, could well be considered the metaphoric epitome of Babs herself. Streisand provides insights on her film work for the first time in the audio commentary tracks that accompany each film.

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MPAA: rated G-R

viewed at home on a small screen

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