Funny Girl (1968)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Funny Girl</strong> (1968)

(On Cable TV, March 2018) The best reason to see Funny Girl was and remains Barbra Streisand—for all of her diva reputation, here she is at the beginning of her career with the chance to play a few decades’ worth of a character through early success and later heartbreak. In taking on a star-making debut role loosely based on Fanny Brice’s life, Streisand gets to be funny and attractive, then increasingly embittered by a bad marriage even as her fame grows. Most of all, Streisand gets to sing in a musical that becomes a showcase for a broad range of talents, from light-hearted to dramatic. It’s quite a performance, and it should charm even though who have grown dubious of post-fame Streisand. The great Omar Sharif shows up in a key role as her no-good husband—the story here is rather standard, but Streisand’s performance elevates it. Funny Girl is also notable in that while it was made in the twilight years of the big Hollywood musical (and during the big upheaval that brought New Hollywood to the forefront), it doesn’t suffer all that much from the encroaching bitterness that killed off the genre in the 1970s—while the second half of the film is significantly less amusing than the first, the transition is accomplished gradually, and much of the first half is actually quite funny. William Wyler’s direction is fine—with some standout sequences such as the last scene of Act One. Still, this is Streisand’s show and she remains the single best reason to watch Funny Girl even today.

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