A young wife and mother, bored with day-to-day life in New York City and neglected by her husband, slips into increasingly outrageous fantasies: her mother breaking into the apartment, an explorer's demonstration of tribal fertility music at a party causing strange transformations, and joining terrorists to plant explosives in the Statue of Liberty. Written by
Under-appreciated Dramedy With Streisand Superb as a Confused Wife and Mother
It's a shame that this 1972 dramedy is not better remembered because it holds up quite well and probably contains Barbra Streisand's most impressive performance in a contemporary setting. She portrays Margaret Reynolds, an ordinary New York City housewife and mother of two, who finds out she is pregnant again. Beset with a workaholic academic husband and a suffocating mother, she undergoes a major identity crisis and gets lost in periodic fantasies that provide an outlet for her deepest feelings. While the film has an undeniable 1970's "I'm-OK-You're-OK" tone about it, the story is a mature character study of its proto-feminist heroine thanks to Paul Zindel's perceptive screenplay based on the best-selling novel by Anne Richardson Roiphe.
Moreover, director Irvin Kershner brings a great deal of humanity to the film even as the fantasies escalate in scope and incredulousness. These include a revealing tango with Fidel Castro; a bomb planted inside the Statue of Liberty (deeply ironic that the World Trade Center is still under construction in the background); a disastrous confrontation at her parents' 33rd anniversary party; the fatalistic rituals of a female-dominated Samburu tribe in Kenya; and a dream-like sequence at an abortion critic. Sometimes, the transitions between real-life and fantasy are too subtle to be completely effective (for example, using incidental characters as major figures in the fantasy sequences), but Kershner shows an intimate understanding of the heroine's evolution even if the final resolution seems rather pat.
For once, Streisand is naturally radiant and blessedly life-sized with little of her chutzpah-driven mannerisms. She plays it so low-key that you wish she would do more indie films to show her vulnerable side. Smaller roles are ably filled with David Selby nicely underplaying her preoccupied husband Paul. The 2003 DVD is quite a treat with Streisand and Kershner providing insightful commentary on separate tracks. Unlike her brief track for "What's Up, Doc?", Streisand speaks throughout the film and still seems very passionate about it, articulating the various themes and explaining what kind of movie they were trying to make. Along with the original theatrical trailer (which seems quite confused as to what it is marketing), there is also an interesting ten-minute vintage making-of featurette that focuses mainly on Streisand's travels to Kenya to film the tribal fantasy sequence.
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