Thursday, December 30, 2010

Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were

Barbra Streisand received her second (and to date last) Best Actress nomination for playing Katie, a leftist girl falling in love with Robert Redford in Sydney Pollack's romantic movie, The Way We Were. I think Barbra had a fair chance of winning. She was a great star, a previous Oscar winner, she was loved by people and she starred in a box office hit, a real audience favorite. I think she was third in the voting quite probably.

The Way We Were is a quite boring romantic movie. It's quite corny and predictable, but it's quite entertaining occasionally. I perfectly understand the reason for its success though: two charming superstars star in a romantic movie about two likeable people who have a doomed love affair, plus Barbra had to sing in it. The Oscar-winning song is quite good, though I definitely would have given it to Live and Let Die, which is one of my favorite songs. I don't get the Best Music win either: there's no music I noticed except for the song. Robert Redford gives quite a standard and bored performance and it's so obvious that he didn't like this movie.

I happen to like Barbra Streisand. I'm not a fan, but I always enjoy her movies. I loved her in Funny Girl and What's Up, Doc?, it might be a shame to admit, but I also loved her as Roz Focker in Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers. She's a superbly talented performer, an exceptional singer and a great actress. She has a great sense of humor, that really gets me every time. Therefore, I was really hoping that I would like her in The Way We Were. And I really did.

Although I liked her performance, I don't think that it's perfect at all. Much like Joanne Woodward (but to a lesser degree), her performance pales as the film goes on. It starts out extremely strong actually, that I even thought that this performance would be a perfect five in the end. However, somewhere in the middle (when they go to Hollywood) it becomes weak and quite weightless. The whole thing is rather mixed bag as a result: it has fantastic moments, but also scenes of mediocrity.

The character herself is a cliché: the Jewish young girl from New York with leftist political views, who ends up falling in love with a gentile boy. It might be possible though that the character became a cliché because of this movie, but it's still a cliché. Babs gets the best out of it though: she excellently delivers the sarcastic one-liners, and she has a kind of lovely presence, which had a very good effect on me. As I said, this first half is excellently handled by Barbra, she shows all the feelings of this girl quite well and you just cannot take your eyes off her.

Barbra shows perfectly well how Katie falls for this guy, despite the fact that they really do not seem to be a match made in heaven. Barbra carefully built this characters, step by step, but quite firmly. She showed that Katie is an extremely stubborn woman, who just doesn't want to give up on her views and beliefs. She never makes excuses for what she does and we feel that it's alright.

At this point, I still loved her performance. However, when she goes to Hollywood, all th positive things about her performance disappear. She just forgets to develop Katie, she's right there, but she doesn't have any depth or something that you can care about. She even loses her magnetic presence and everything becomes quite boring and slow. And you can observe that with the movie (which Barbra alone makes): it starts out strong and interesting and becomes slow and boring in the end, without any wit. Babs' performance always totally fits the movie, though she's always better than the material that she was given, to tell the truth. And this really made me disappointed: I so wanted to like her more and more and yet something was really missing.

I forgive her, though, because she handles the last scene very well: it's a very corny scene, but somehow, she1s so believable and loveable in it, plus the strength of the first half was really visible there.

This is a bit disappointing performance by a great talent. It is surely loved by many, but I just did not like it as much since it's quite a mixed bag: the beginning is fantastic, but the ending is rather mediocre and a bit boring. Too bad, because I know that this could have been a fantastic performance. I cannot overlook the incredible strength of the beginning, though.
Almost a four, but that would have been too much.


Louis Morgan said...

I have not seen this, but I can tell you I am probably not going to either.

dinasztie said...

Louis: You can really live without seeing it. :-)

Clay Magee said...

Please check out Pauline Kael's review of the film. My problem with the Way We Were is that it is edited so badly. Once they get to Hollywood the continuity is sometimes off-kilter. There are times when it's hard to tell how much time has passed. There were moments when it felt like there was a scene missing. After she says that she is pregnant there are too many scenes of her not "showing". I couldn't tell whether or not she had had the baby. I liked the film and the performances, but it's done in by poor editing and possibly a script that undermine the dramatic structure.