“You think beautiful girls are going to stay in style forever? I should say not! Any minute now they’re going to be out! Finished! Then it’ll be my turn!”
When I was growing up, Barbra Streisand was already an old lady, made fun of by the young, cool comedians and TV shows. She was purely for middle aged and older house wives. In the three decades that I’ve known who she was, my own view of Streisand has never really altered to much from that. I guess, for a long time now, I’ve known she made legitimately good movies that established her as a star in the first place, I’d just never seen any. Until today. Because today, I watched Funny Girl.
Fanny Brice (Streisand) strolls into the theatre where she is the star attraction of the Ziegfield Follies. It’s obvious that she’s troubled and haunted by something, so it’s time to flash back. Flash back to when Fanny was the ugly duckling wanting to break into the showbiz world of swans. Fully aware of her physical shortcomings, Fanny knows exactly who she is. She’s not a beauty, she’s a talent. Funny, original, confident and like none of the other chorus girls in pre World War I New York, Fanny charms her way onto the stage, where she finds increasing success and stardom, and the love of her life, Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif).
As her success and fame grows, Fanny performs in bigger and better shows. Meeting Nick here and there over the years, her feelings only grow with each encounter. Eventually, they meet again while both at the top of their games. Fanny is a headliner and Nick is kicking goals financially. Finally able to act on their feelings and marry, the drive and ambition of these two people soon starts to get in the way, as it’s hard to be happy for each other’s success if it means taking any focus off their own.
It didn’t take very much of Funny Girl before I got it. I almost immediately understood the super stardom of Streisand that has endured for something like 60 years. She is amazingly compelling, funny, adorable and impossible to ignore as Fanny Brice. As I started to watch Funny Girl, I noticed it was over two and half hours long and cringed. But at one stage, I thought in its early minutes, I paused it and saw that I was almost an hour in without breaking a sweat. And it’s definitely Streisand’s performance that deserves all the credit for how watchable this movie is.
There’s one last thing I have to mention about Funny Girl though. And I know it’s a really superficial thing that should have absolutely no bearing on the quality of the film or my enjoyment of it. But what’s with Barbra Streisand’s fingernails? She has these long, sharp looking, threatening claws. Was it the style of the time when the movie was made in 1968? Was it period accurate to the time the story was set? Was it a character choice, making a comment about the kind of woman Fanny Brice was? Whatever it was, Streisand’s talons distracted me and scared me for most of the movie’s 150 odd minutes.