Funny Girl Blu-ray Review
Barbra Streisand has always had a towering presence in anything she has tackled in her career. She has conquered every entertainment medium that there is out there. Broadway, Hollywood, television and the music industry has fallen prey to the Streisand touch. This was never more evident in her first movie role in FUNNY GIRL. She struck gold by winning the Oscar that showcased all her talents. FUNNY GIRL is a bit overrated in my eyes, but by the force of Ms. Streisand it succeeds.
FUNNY GIRL is loosely based on the life of Fanny Brice. Brice was a successful comedienne, singer and actress in the first half of the 20th Century. I say loosely based because many of the facts and characteristics of the real life characters have been changed or altered. Producer Ray Stark was the son-in-law of Brice, so he naturally was looking out for her and his scoundrel father-in-law.
The film starts out as Fanny (Streisand) looks back at her career and how it all started. She wasn’t an overnight success. She struggled as a chorus line girl and dancing around on roller skates. Time and time again someone though saw a spark in her and put her in another role. After one adventurous routine, Fanny meets the dashing Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif). Nick is best described as a card shark and an entrepreneur. He has a twinkle in his eyes and always quick with the word. In real life Nick was more of a scoundrel, thief and deadbeat. His character was the one who got the most scrubbing to have movie audiences at least sympathize and fall for him. Fanny took to Nick right away. She was blinded to his faults and her insatiable ambition. It would be a crucial mistake in many ways.
Eventually Fanny would join up with the Ziegfeld Follies and the immortal Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter Pidgeon). Their first meeting was one to remember. It showed the determination in Fanny and her willingness to take on anyone. She didn’t want to sing a song about being beautiful because she didn’t feel that way. This was a recurring theme throughout the film and everyone would reassure her that she was beautiful in her own way. Fanny put her own spin on the song without Mr. Ziegfeld’s knowledge. This delighted the crowd to no ends, but wasn’t looked on fondly by the boss. You could say that Fanny is a lot like Streisand. Streisand has made her mark by doing things her way and butting heads if necessary. This hasn’t endeared her to some people in the film business. Her feistiness works perfectly for this character and the travails that she went through to get to the top.
The core of FUNNY GIRL is the relationship between Fanny and Nick. The duo take turns pursuing each other. Much of it is standard movie romance with its ups and downs. I never found it all that compelling. Sharif is not given much to do. He’s basically there as window dressing. He looks good on the screen and spouts his lines with some flair. You just never really know though what drives Nick and that’s an issue. Another big problem is that the first half is much better and more fun than the second half. The first half showcases the blossoming romance between Nick and Fanny. There’s vitality to the story and the musical numbers which were directed by Herbert Ross. The second half just dragged and slogged along as Nick’s prospects get dimmer and dimmer. At that point you just want the movie to end, so you don’t have to experience this anymore.
Streisand is the front and center star of FUNNY GIRL. She dominates every scene she is in and other characters suffer somewhat because of this. Streisand played this part in Broadway beforehand. She is comfortable and free with the character. Her comic timing is impeccable. Her facial expressions say so much without her uttering a single word. And it goes without saying that her singing is top notch. The songs by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill range from great to forgettable. The two standout songs are “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. Streisand attacks those with such furor that it burst through the screen. The closing number, “My Man”, is tender and fierce at the same time. None of the other actors make much of a mark with their singing. Sharif does not fare well in this regard. Famed director William Wyler does his best in filming the dramatic scenes. Much of it feels like a play being filmed as a movie. The sets look like sets instead of having an authentic look.
FUNNY GIRL works mainly because of the talents of Barbra Streisand. If someone else would have starred in this film, it never would have worked. This is a case where a role is perfectly suited for an actress. I may not be a huge fan of this movie or of Barbra Streisand, but even I can see the talent on display here.
Video: The vibrant colors stand out in this lovely transfer. It doesn’t look like a movie that is over 40 years old.
Audio: Musicals depend on the sound being crystal clear. Barbra Streisand fans can rest easy that you can hear every syllable she sings with the utmost clarity.
Barbra in Movieland (10:09): This feature focuses on the filming of the song “Don’t Song on My Parade” and all that it entails. The caretaker of the closed rail station that they filmed at is given plenty of screen time.
This is Streisand (5:34): A short feature that glorifies Barbra Streisand. Fans will surely be let down by the utter lack of information provided here. This was one of the most useless features that I have come across.