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Rose and Gregory, both Columbia University professors meet when Rose's sister answers Gregory's "personals" ad. Several times burned, the handsome-but-boring Gregory believes that sex has ruined his life, and has deliberately set out to find and marry a woman with absolutely no sex appeal. Greg thinks he's found what he's looking for in Rose, a plain, plump English Lit professor who can't compete with her gorgeous mother and sister. More out of mutual admiration and respect than love, Greg and Rose marry. Greg assumes that Rose understands that he is not interested in a sexual relationship. He's mistaken, and their marriage is nearly destroyed when Rose tries to consummate their relationship. While Gregory is out of the country on a lecture tour, Rose diets and exercises to transform herself into a sexy siren in a last-ditch attempt to save her marriage. Written by
Anthony Bruce Gilpin <email@example.com>
Mirrors, Puccini, and the triumphant Ugly Duckling
This was the third film directed and starring Barbara Streisand. It did get a whopping big two Oscar nominations for the best song and for best supporting actress (Lauren Bacall). Neither won. Ms Streisand hit the Oscar gold with best actress for FUNNY GIRL, and since then has met with indifferent success - and almost none with her three directed films.
This film is a modern spin on Hans Christian Anderson's tale of the Ugly Duckling. She is the "homely" daughter of Lauren Bacall, a beauty specialist, and her younger sister Mimi Rogers is also beautiful to look at. But Mimi has had two unsuccessful marriages, and is seen at the start having her third marriage - this time to Pierce Brosnan, who initially showed an interest in Streisand.
Throughout her entire life she has been having a low esteem problem regarding sex. She is seen breaking dates with Austin Pendleton. We learn her closest friend is Brenda Vaccaro, who has also failed to do well with men. Yet she is a highly articulate and intelligent English professor at Columbia University.
It is Columbia University where the other part of this equation is found. Jeff Bridges is a leading figure in the math department. He is finding it difficult to recover from repeated failed sexual relationships. So he puts an add in the newspaper requesting to meet a suitable mate. Mimi Rogers notices the ad, and puts in a response for Streisand. After watching Streisand handle her English class (far better than Bridges can handle his calculus course), he calls her up and sets up a date.
Bridges has worked out a perfect solution for his sexual failures. He will marry a woman he can be chummy with, who is intelligent, and who will not require a sexual relationship (and who is so plain looking as not to invite his own sexual responses). Streisand follows this, not knowing to be insulted or to go along. Finally she agrees to go along with it, and they get married. But can they maintain this palsy-walsy pseudo-marriage, or it doomed?
Bacall gave a terrific performance as an apparently bitchy woman, who likes to show up her younger daughter (even at the latter's wedding), but who turns out to be more caring and wise than we first suspected. Brosnan gives a good performance, but it could have used a few filler scenes to broaden his character's history (we don't know how he and Streisand first met, nor how Rogers stole him away). Bridges is wonderful as a variant on the absent minded professor, who can't see the trees for the forest he wishes to plant. George Segal (who co-starred with Streisand in THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT two decades earlier) is good as Bridges' friend who sees too clearly how wrong-headed the experiment is. Rogers does well as a nymphomaniac who does not mind marriage as a badge of sexual success, but cannot stand the actual reason for that institution.
In the end Streisand does triumph - and she does hear Puccini in her ecstasy (TURANDOT by the way). You see, you are supposed to "hear" great romantic music - especially Puccini - when achieving sexual climax.
The film's title is a reminder of the whole issue of surface appearance that bedevils Streisand's ugly duckling (and several other characters too). It is a reminder of dressing up for dating, of looking attractive to men, and of the fact that we face ourselves in the mirror - and so do we face ourselves honestly or lying to ourselves? But watch carefully - in many scenes Streisand will shoot the scene from the point of view of the mirror. It becomes an all encompassing theme in this wonderful film.
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