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Riveting courtroom drama; one of the best of it's kind
robb_77220 April 2006
Badly neglected by both audiences and critics at the time of it's original release, NUTS is a film that is ripe for reevaluation. Based on Tom Toplor's 1981 courtroom play, NUTS is definitely a dialogue-based film with little Hollywood flashiness. Though extremely well-written (by Toplor, adapting his own work with Darryl Ponicsan and Alvin Sargent) and sharply staged and directed by veteran Martin Ritt, it is the cast whom is really responsible bringing NUTS to life. Barbra Streisand gives an absolutely bravura performance that should have earned her an Oscar nomination. Alternately hilarious and frightening, Streisand is always mesmerizing as she delves so far into character.

Richard Dreyfess is nothing less than Streisand's equal as her public defender. He too was robbed of an Oscar nomination. The supporting cast is a top-notch ensemble of professional character actors (Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach, Robert Webber, James Whitmore, and Karl Malden), all of whom work their craft flawlessly. NUTS' screenplay does indulge in the predictability of some of the typical courtroom-plot conventions a little too often, but Toplor's absorbing script still deserves high praise for it's fascinating exploration of what constitutes as normality and whether or not the insane should be required to receive treatment. NUTS isn't going to win over any fans of 3-cuts-per-second action films, but it will leave lovers of thought-provoking, expertly-acted dramas fascinated.
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Good girls and craziness
RisiaSkye20 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
It's interesting, in looking through the "official" reviews of this film that such questionable illuminaries of film criticism as Roger Ebert seemed to miss the point: the desire to mark Claudia as insane seems to run strongly through reviewers, much as it does through the courtroom that the film portrays.

Streisand plays an abrasive, uncooperative, deeply rebellious person. Clearly, she's shown as intelligent. Clearly, she understands the rules of the game; she just doesn't want to play. I find it interesting that so many people seem to consider her insane, at the same time that Nicholson's McMurphy is a rebellious revolutionary hero, working against a repressive system. It's passe to suggest that sexism plays a role in how we view movies, but this one points it out on two levels: Claudia's trap, in the film, bears an uncanny resemblance to the trap the film's been placed in by reviewers: the fact that she isn't a nice housewife seems to suggest to many that she's unstable.

Sure, the movie (like the play) uses the facile psychological excuse of childhood molestation to explain her refusal to play the good-girl game. But maybe, just maybe, she refuses to play because she recognizes that she's not allowed to win. It's not for those who hate Streisand on principle, certainly. But, if you're willing to take a tough walk through the definition of sanity and the gendering of that idea, take a look at this film.
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Dreyfus and Streissand in Another Great Martin Ritt Film
Jay Raskin25 July 2010
This is the third of three great courtroom dramas from that time. "And Justice for All,"(1979) and "The Verdict," (1982) were the other two.

Because of all the courtroom dramas on television in the 1990's and 2000's, many of the things in the movie now seem as clichés. It is important to remember that it was quite original when it came out. It is only cliché today because it has been copied so much since. Women were generally terrible victims of much psychiatry in the 20th century, this film, "Francis" (1982)and "Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959) are the only three movies that really demonstrate that.

The cast is full of great actors and actresses in small rolls: Eli Wallach, James Whitmore, Maureen Stapleton, and Karl Malden know that less is more and underplay their roles smoothly. The only problem with the casting is Leslie Nielsen as a crazy client. Nielsen became so associated with spoofs like "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun" one almost laughs automatically when he's on the screen, no matter how serious the scene is. Stars Richard Dreyfus and Barbara Streisand are at the top of their form and work well off each other.

The one criticism of this movie that is valid is Streisand's age. She is a bit too old at 45 for the character who is supposed to be in her late 20's. It is a minor irritation, and we should remember that male actors in their 40's also frequently play such roles. For example, Brad Pitt was 41 when he played Achilles, and Sylvester Stallone was 60 when he played in his last "Rocky" movie.

This is Barbara Streisand's grittiest movie with rape, incest, and madness being key themes, yet it still has a lot of witty lines and funny moments. It is just well balanced and well done. The DVD contains some fascinating commentary by Ms. Streisand.
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A Powerful and Intelligent Film.
MAX8027 November 1999
Based on Tom Topors's off broadway play, NUTS is a highly charged drama that raises some uneasy questions. NUTS opened in late 1987 to little hype and mixed reviews.

This is a film that deserves to have a second life on video. While the court room plot devices are predictable, the film raises some important issues and questions. Questions like, "What is normal?" and "Does the law have the right to force help upon those who don't want it?"

What really makes this film worth watching though, is Barbra Strisand's bravura performance in the lead. I cannot believe she failed to receive an Oscar for her work here, it's crime that she wasn't at least nominated. Director Martin Ritt keep the film going at a perfect pace and also gets strong supporting performances from Richard Dreyfss and Maureen Stapleton.

This is a film that deserves more attention then it originally received, it is honest, though-provoking, and features a brilliant performance from Streisand.

My score for this excellent film: 9/10!
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Psychologically entrancing
ocbka27 March 2000
This movie is very psychological and emotional. The realism of Claudia's abuse as a child and its effects on her life as an adult is very heart-wrenching. It made me so furious to see Claudia's helplessness in a fight against the judicial system and her wealthy parents. It is depressing to see just how far the power of money can take us as a society - free killers and lock up (in this case institutionalise) the innocent. It is even more terrifying to know what kind of "licensed professionals" get to judge people's "mental capacity." This movie shows that there is still some hope and justice in the world.
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Impressive Performance of Barbra Streisand
Claudio Carvalho23 December 2015
In New York, the public defender Aaron Levinsky (Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses the high-class call girl Claudia Draper (Barbra Streisand) beating her attorney while waiting for his hearing in the courtroom. Judge Stanley Murdoch (James Whitmore) assigns him to defend Claudia and soon he learns that she killed her client Allen Green (Leslie Nielsen) in self-defense. However, her mother Rose Kirk (Maureen Stapleton) and her wealthy stepfather Arthur Kirk (Karl Malden) want her declared mentally incompetent to go on trial. Dr. Herbert A. Morrison (Eli Wallach) prepares a medical report stating that she is mentally unstable to support the trial, but Claudia wants to prove that she is sane; otherwise she would spend the rest of her life in a mental institution. Along the hearing, the District Attorney Francis MacMillan (Robert Webber) and Levinsky question the defendant, her mother, her stepfather and Dr. Morring and the painful truth about Claudia's childhood is disclosed.

"Nuts" is one of the best courtroom dramas ever made. The story is developed practically in one location, but the performances are awesome highlighting Barbra Streisand. This actress deserved at least a nomination to the Oscar. The conclusion has a corny moment, when Claudia hugs her mother. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Querem me Enlouquecer" ("They Want to Drive me Crazy")
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Who is trying to Hurt You?
thinker169115 March 2007
After viewing this superior film, a viewer might wonder where in blazes the original idea came from; The Twilight Zone or ripped from todays headlines. This film is laden with so much talent I'm surprised it didn't establish itself as a mega movie. The premise is that of a talented lawyer, Aaron Levinsky, ably played by Richard Dreyfuss, who is forcibly thrust into a competency case which he does not want. His adversary is a formidably D.A, Francis MacMillan (Robert Webber) who has spent a considerable amount of time putting unwanted criminals and mental undesirables, behind bars. Thus he sees no reason why he should spend more time than necessary on a simple case of mental incompetency. Unfortunately for him the woman in question is spirited, independent Claudia Draper, (Barbra Streisand) who is desperate to have her day in court. Arrayed against her aside from the D.A. are her loving parents, Karl Malden as Arthur Kirk and Maureen Stapleton as Rose Kirk, who guard a terrible family secret. In addition, there is formidable Eli Wallach as Dr. Herbert A. Morrison, a psychiatrist who is convinced that Draper is insane. In Claudia's eyes, everyone seems hell bent on having her locked up in insane asylum. The courtroom drama is superior as Judge Stanley Murdoch, (James Whitmore ) tries to discover why the authorities want Draper incarcerated. A most convincing performance by all to create a memorable film. ****
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A tour de force for Streisand
dwr24614 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Like most issues in life, the question of sanity vs. insanity isn't nearly as cut and dried as it might seem on the surface. And Nuts is a film which definitely dives beneath the surface, and brings up some intriguing issues.

Nuts is based on the true story of Claudia Draper (Barbra Streisand), a high priced call girl who killed a john (Leslie Nielsen) in self defense. The facts leading up to the murder are told in flashbacks that leave little question as to the nature of the killing. It's the aftermath that is both surprising and disconcerting. Claudia's mother (Maureen Stapleton) and step father (Karl Malden), wishing to cover up any embarrassment over the crime, decide to have Claudia declared criminally insane. While Claudia doesn't wish to have this happen, her general paranoia and lack of cooperation don't help her case much. When she breaks her attorney's nose for not doing what she wishes, she is indeed institutionalized, pending further evaluation and another hearing. Her court appointed attorney, Aaron Levinsky (Richard Dreyfuss), also finds her less than cooperative, but ultimately comes to agree that she shouldn't be declared insane. However, with Claudia as a client, Levinsky has his work cut out for him as they try to convince Judge Stanley Murdoch (James Whitmore) that Claudia shouldn't be institutionalized for the rest of her life.

This is a fascinating story, told with a great deal of skill. While Claudia does seem insane at first - violently so - as the film delves into her background and the events leading up to the murder, the audience discovers a very intelligent, very disillusioned woman. Her disillusionment has turned her both cynical and abrasive. She trusts no one because those she has trusted have repeatedly let her down, or even abused her. Nonetheless, in order for Claudia to win her freedom, she must learn to trust both Levinsky and Murdoch. Her growth as she begins to do so is most satisfying to watch.

Streisand turns in another excellent performance, showing both her skill and her range as an actress. Her portrayal of Claudia shows the many facets of the character with astonishing skill. Dreyfuss also turns in his usual skilled performance as a lawyer who becomes more passionate about the case the longer he is involved with it. His eventual concern for Claudia is touching. Stapleton does a nice job of showing a woman who blinds herself to what she doesn't want to see, only to be forced to face it, and realize the damage she has done. Her regret is skillfully portrayed. Malden gives off a smarmy arrogance that is perfectly appropriate to his character, only to reveal a pitiful sort of vulnerability when the mask is stripped away. Whitmore does a wonderful job maintaining control in a situation that frequently threatens to get out of control. And Elizabeth Hoffman's cameo is amusing and skillfully done.

This is a disturbing film, and not one that is for the faint of heart - or even not a Streisand fan. Strangely, there was also a great deal of criticism for the fact that Claudia is not a "nice" character. But the point the film makes is that Claudia's only reward for being "nice" was to be mistreated. It's small wonder that she's not "nice." Still, this movie is a skillful portrayal of her story, and she does become a sympathetic character by the end of the movie.

Overall, a thought provoking film, and one that gets better with repeated viewings.
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I STILL love this one!!!
PeachHamBeach21 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers

A top notch cast: Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Wallach, James Whitmore, Maureen Stapleton, and Karl Malden star in this excellent courtroom drama about a high priced prostitute who is declared mentally ill and unfit to stand trial for manslaughter.

Claudia Draper (Streisand) lives in a plush condo on 66th Ave. in NYC. She dresses in elegant apparel, wears minimal but lovely makeup, and meets nice looking businessmen in fancy restaurants. She's not your typical hooker. She doesn't have sleazy tattoos, she doesn't wear cheap miniskirts and KMart boots like Julia Roberts did in PRETTY WOMAN. She doesn't shoot up with heroin. She doesn't hang out on corners and drink malt liquor and try to wave down cars. You'd never know she was a hooker, because she doesn't fit the traditional description. Her MO is different. She had no pimps telling her what to do. She chooses who she will have sex with, preferring soft candlelight and sexy piano music and champagne to a smelly alley littered with needles or diesel trucks smelling of sweat and dead chickens. Believing herself to be of the highest quality among sex workers, she charges big money for her time, and that is how she lives, how she pays the rent and bills. She didn't run away from home at age 14 and fall prey to deviants, she divorced her husband and went into the age old profession by CHOICE.

For these very reasons, I have a bizzare facination with Claudia Draper. I admired her, for being who she wanted to be and not giving a damn what anyone thought about it. She doesn't seem to have a problem with it morally, and she's a grown woman anyway. And she's not had any serious problems with clients...until one night, when a client steps over the line and tries to treat Claudia like she's his wife, acting proprietary, then menacing.

Claudia ends up facing manslaughter charges, and because her profession is such a scandal and disgrace to her parents (Stapleton and Malden), she finds herself fighting with everyone about whether or not she is able to stand trial. She's a prostitute, so surely she's crazy. What sane, respectable woman would choose to do what she does for her living??? Her parents, who don't want her "destroyed" in an open trial, demand that she be locked up in a mental ward. They insist she's mentally sick, and her psychiatrist (Wallach) agrees and wants her deemed insane and hospitalized. Claudia passionately disagrees with everyone's opinion of her mental status, and would rather go to trial and even to prison. Her dignity and choice to not take an easy way out was another feature I admired. She admits she killed someone, and that it was in self defense. She didn't kill someone because she had been slowly breaking down because she was a call girl. Her lawyer Aaron Levenski (Dreyfuss) is the only one who seems to listen to her and hear what she has to say. Everyone else ignores her and talks to her as if they are talking to a dog who won't do tricks on command.

Family dysfuntion thrives in this woman's history, but as Claudia asserts, "It's not relevant to what's going on here." And she's right. She's had some bad things happen to her, but she doesn't want a pity party, she doesn't want to be tucked neatly away so that people don't have to look at her and accept her and realize that some people lead lives different from ours. Everyone is so busy hating her because she's a "whore" "call girl" "hooker" that they WANT her out of their sight so she won't BOTHER them anymore. Sometimes, the most benevolent looking people are the worst of all, and like many families, Claudia's hides its secrets. If they can deny it long enough, maybe it will go away. If they put Claudia away, maybe their own guilt will go away.

Stapleton had a line that made me think really hard: "A divorced woman is an easy target. She's vulnerable to any polite man who comes along." Hmmmm....

A very well executed psychological legal drama with good writing and great acting by all. A+++!!!
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Compelling yet contrived vanity project **SPOILERS**
Captain Ed7 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
"Nuts" is one of those set-piece courtroom dramas that feel too slick, too pat, too contrived to really work, despite some excellent work by Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Wallach, and especially Maureen Stapleton. Even Barbra Streisand (definitely NOT one of my favorites) isn't too bad when she's not too busy chewing the scenery to pieces.

However, this movie drones out like a late-80s morality play, or even an acting-class extemporaneous psychodrama. It hits all the right PC notes: a stepfather who is a sexual predator, an alcoholic mother who (maybe) unwittingly pimps out her daughter for security, a physically abusive husband, not to mention the lawyer who wants to get rid of her quickly, the other lawyer who risks everything for justice, the uncaring hospital administrator/psychiatrist who ... well, I'm sure you're getting the picture. The most egregious is when the WASPy lawyer and psychiatrist get their panties in a bunch when she starts talking about sex and prostitution, as if they've never dealt with it before. All we're missing here is a learning disorder.

All of this is mere prologue for Streisand to strike a blow for feminists by declaring that her life choices are her responsibility (true) and that they want to label her as crazy and lock her up forever because she's dared to do things that men don't like, and they're afraid of her power (huh?). Maybe it's symbolism, but it's laid on very, very thick, and Streisand's tendency to overact doesn't help.

The result of all this contrivance is that the story feels false, the characters feel false, and a good deal of what goes on in the courtroom isn't at all realistic. James Whitmore as the judge gives the most realistic performance, but it's not the actors -- it's the script itself. People contradict themselves in ways inconsistent to their characters. For instance, Karl Malden as the stepfather makes a very incriminating contradiction on the witness stand. Would a man who had successfully hidden his abuse of his stepdaughter for 20-odd years suddenly crack under 5 minutes of unremarkable questioning? Not likely. Would a psychiatrist who had testified in "hundreds" of hearings admit any personal bias by accident as shown here? Not likely.

However, there are some good performances that definitely lend tension to the movie, and even though this has very obviously been adapted from a stage play, it avoids that flat, almost-video look that so many movies from the 80s tend to have. It's watchable but not remarkable -- I gave it a 6.
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What if this was everyone's life?
Lee Eisenberg4 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I read that Barbra Streisand considers "Nuts" her most personal movie, due to how her stepfather verbally abused her. It may be hard to determine how that affected the movie itself, but the movie certainly did come out pretty good.

Streisand plays mentally unstable Claudia Draper, charged with murder. Naturally, before they put her on trial, they have to determine whether or not she's mentally competent to stand trial. Her attorney Aaron Levinsky (Richard Dreyfuss) is convinced that not only is she mentally competent, but that she's not a vicious murderer. What he discovers may not shock people royally, but it does make for a good movie. Martin Ritt directed another really good movie, and Karl Malden, Maureen Stapleton, James Whitmore, and Leslie Nielsen (yes, THAT Leslie Nielsen) all play excellent supporting roles.
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Nuts is an excellent film that has not recieved the credit that it deserves.
Julius-1026 April 1999
Nuts, by Barbra Streisand, is a classic showcase of this multi-talented woman's versatility as an actress. The film deals with a very weighty subject, is handled superbly by Streisand, both as an actress and as a director. Other noteworthy performances are given by Richard Dreyfuss, Maureen Stapleton, and Arthur Kirk, as her lawyer, mother, and step-father respectively. This film is an unadultered gem and should be considered as such by any worthy critic.
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Start Lying Or Be Committed!!
dataconflossmoor1 November 2007
What are the thought patterns of someone who is psychologically disturbed? As this movie portrays it, (just as many other politically astute movies have done in the past) the depiction of psychologically inappropriate behavior will appear like behavior which merely lacks a little decorum.. Comprehension of "knowing the drill" so to speak, is a charade of devising clever little euphemisms for sweeping everything under the rug!! The omnipotent ye old faithful American twenty dollar bill became the proverbial picture that speaks more than 1,000 words.. Also, it does a heinously effective job of concealing virtually everything!! This whole covert arsenal for cognitive dissonance was the convoluted perspective that the film "Nuts" presented to the movie audience!! "Nuts" portrays the mental ward, that Claudia Draper was facilitated in, as a domicile for derelicts with sexual obsessions and deliberately violent mannerisms!! When somebody tells you to "grow up" and just "act like an adult" frequently these are platitudes for telling you that you should avoid telling the truth!! Such an articulation of this poignant characteristic of human behavior, puts this film in an auspicious category all by itself!! Barbara Streisand played Claudia Draper, and her home life was relegated to a precariously comfortable arrangement.. The haunting scene encompassing a deliberation hearing with relation to a trial for a capital crime, became a stilted side show for unearthing all of Claudia Draper's domestic intricacies!! Reveille with the prevailing situation in Claudia's home life brought out a few major skeletons in the closet! The only unrealistic aspect to this movie is that no public defense attorney is going to engage in complex guessing games to vindicate his client in the manner that Richard Dreyfuss' character did!!! In evaluating the trial in this movie, it was a case of insolence and temerity trying to run roughshod over a vulnerable spawn of an emotionally neglected household!! Cannon fodder for the prosecution included the exploitation of Claudia's very sordid occupation!! The prosecution also pinpointed many corroborating nuances of Claudia's which wound up compounding her overall predicament!! In particular, they (The prosecution and her psychiatrist) dwelled on her extremely non conventional actions!! The indelible impact a tragedy will have on an innocent teenager can definitely devastate her!! Depraved sexual fixations which are motivated by relentless testosterone driven theatrics became a perpetual culprit for violence and lewd debauchery in this movie!!! Orchestrating a cerebral quagmire as a subterfuge for the non-egalitarian justification of your basic carnal desires translated to the step father's self serving interests!! These interests manifested themselves as a gargantuan debacle which became an egregious societal burden!! What that means is that thousands and thousands of tax dollars were squandered on the burden of proof for coping with the end result of some lecherous curmudgeon's obstinate recreational activities!! These activities delved into the lustfully demented aspects of the taboo!! Circumstantial evidence seemed to habitually solicit more social acceptability than did exculpatory facts!! This was the summon substance of Claudia Draper's dilemma!! To say that Claudia Draper suffered from cerebral inhibitions, and a lethal taciturnity, would be a masterpiece of understatement!! If everything were just a case of black or white, whereby a professional psychiatric evaluation becomes the final decree, Claudia Draper would have been dead in the water from the offset!!This movie has an amazing amount of top notch acting talent!! It stars, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfuss, James Whitmore, Eli Wallach, Lesile Nielson, Karl Malden and Maureen Stapleton!! The intensity of emotions and agitated responses in this movie was utterly spellbinding!! By 1987, it was time to bring out a film which was intellectually riveting!! The happy go lucky disposition of the 1980's was fine, however, on occasion, a film should elaborate on real life instances of trauma, regardless of the way the wind is blowing in the American Cinema's mindset during a given era!! I found this film to be excellent with regards to it's portrayal of mental disillusionment!! When someone is barraged with questions, there is nothing wrong with deluging the curious party with a bunch of candid answers!! This is my basic interpretation of the film "Nuts". My assessment of "Nuts" is that it is: AN ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS MOVIE!!!!
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A Credentially Surefire Disappointment
jzappa13 July 2011
Though it's largely set in a daunting courtroom, Nuts tries to be more psychological mystery than legal dilemma, and for the better part of the way throughout, Nuts is startlingly gripping before it shamelessly tumbles into agonizing, even cringe-worthy sermonizing at the lugubrious and pedantic conclusion when Streisand serves a painfully affected monologue all in close-up. It's the household psychodrama between patient and shrink, except here a lawyer does the evaluating. Dreyfuss plays this intersection between Perry Mason and Sigmund Freud, Aaron Levinsky, court-appointed to represent Claudia Draper, a call girl who killed a john. The exhaustingly hostile Claudia longs to be tried, but the court is about to pronounce her mentally incompetent to stand trial. The judge, played with truthful and temperate keenness by James Whitmore, certainly merits that available seat on the Supreme Court. Seasoned and resolute as he is, the judge questions how this smart, well-heeled girl came to this. Her mother and stepfather, Maureen Stapleton and Karl Malden, seem to be ideal parents, and Claudia the indulged child gone strangely nutty. Levinsky, the intellect detective, prods for resolutions for this catch-22 that's quickly wearing his patience thin when he needs it most: dealing with her.

In another first-rate performance, Richard Dreyfuss plays the stunningly durable Levinsky. With infectious charm, he unearths some bleak skeletons from her cupboard, and in turn from those of Claudia's stepfather, her mother and her psychiatrist. This credentially surefire film, for awhile, seems like a plucky movie with an unpleasant lead who intractably defies bowing to the agendas, neuroses, or desires of anybody else. But by the end of Nuts, when the case has been decided, there's an unshakable sentiment of tackiness, that the antagonists were trumped-up sitting ducks the script contrives to be taken lying down. If all of psychiatry had been this undemanding, Freud wouldn't have been needed to invent it. The Brothers Grimm would've already taken care it for us.

But regardless, the unraveling of those details is executed so well. At the helm of such masterpieces of delicate subtlety and sensitivity like The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Pete 'n' Tillie and The Front, Martin Ritt is efficient with the technique of the flashback that expands step by step, showing but an instant of a past event, then a little more, then ultimately the entire event. Two distinct bathroom sequences are divulged in this manner, one surrounding Claudia as a little girl, the other her brutal confrontation with her victim. Nuts culminates like a Broadway musical, but otherwise it's an absorbing character study, cadenced like a fine thriller. Ritt has always undoubtedly been a performer's director with a predilection towards oppressed female protagonists. Sally Field's Norma Rae, Patricia Neal in Hud.

Supported by a dignified cast, Streisand and Dreyfuss pair for the first time, but they work together like practiced dancers. He spins her and she laps up the ovation. And that's not uncommon for the controlling Streisand, who characteristically holds the fort on all her projects, but whether it's Streisand or Stallone, supremacy on a movie set only achieves either profundity or chaos. Eli Wallach is entertaining arcane as the psychiatrist. Stapleton is deeply felt, if way too broad, as the feeble mother, with Malden fluently overtaking his Am Ex stamp as Claudia's stepfather. Leslie Nielsen is every prostitute's dread as the client who insists upon and gets more than has been agreed to.

In the opening scenes, we are submerged in the dark-light worlds of the robotizing single-file lines and pencil-pushing procedures of the womens' prison and the crowded, busy courtroom. Director of photography Andrzej Bartkowiak's camera-work begins us in a stark rhythm and atmosphere. But unfortunately, Nuts is below the summation of its memorable parts. Regardless of all its strong suits, it's ultimately ineffective and vain inside. No matter their cred, Ritt, Bartkowiak, screenwriter Alvin Sargent never entirely follow through with their ultimate intent, setting inner integrity against social facades to compel us to determine what it truly means to be crazy.
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a stunning accomplishment
princeMJJ21 August 2002
Even by her own standards Streisand gives an extremely accomplished performance as does Richard Dreyfuss. Her performance is made even more captivating by the fact she is clearly relishing the gritty role of Claudia. This is the sort of film you watch and will enjoy for the superb acting.
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High voltage hysteria...
moonspinner5526 September 2006
Manhattan call-girl has to prove her sanity in a courtroom hearing after she has killed a client; she says it was in self-defense, but now her mental state and her lifestyle--as well as her tumultuous childhood--are on trial. "Nuts" presents a dilemma for director Martin Ritt and his screenwriters, Tom Topor, Darryl Ponicsan and Alvin Sargent, working from Topor's play: how do you get an audience to sympathize with the heroine of your story, one who has a short fuse, a nasty disposition, and who rubs everybody else the wrong way? It probably wasn't possible, and protagonist Claudia Draper is an exasperating, meddling, infernal creation. Barbra Streisand obviously saw in the material a meaty dramatic role for herself as an actress and, although perhaps a bit too old for the part of Claudia Draper, she tackles the project with relish. Unfortunately, "Nuts" opens with such a flurry of manic energy that it's predictable the film won't be able to sustain or match that intensity for the rest of its length. Once the introductions are out of the way, the film settles into a talky, stagy formula, one complete with showboating solo moments for Streisand and most of her co-stars (with the exception of Richard Dreyfuss as her legal representative, who makes a bigger impact simply by keeping a lower profile). Streisand's abrasive Claudia is really the whole picture, and Barbra chews up so much scenery in the course of two hours I'd be surprised if she didn't hit the gym afterward. Still, a piece like this needs an electric personality in the lead if it's going to work at all, and Streisand does more for the role than a less-dynamic actress might have. Not a great picture by any means, and with an amusing/puzzling final shot of Streisand at the end, but one that is well-produced, interestingly edited and full of top talent and style. **1/2 from ****
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Superb cast - absorbing plot - all around good movie!
smokskren24 May 2002
Although there were not any real surprising twists to this movie, I felt that the plot was intriguing enough to make it a movie worth watching. The all star cast was a bonus and it was refreshing to see some really well known actors displaying their talents so many years ago. I recently watched this movie & enjoyed it tremendously. It was recommended to me by my 70+ year old parents who remembered it from 1987. I think that demonstrates the quality and timelessness of this film. Although it is emotionally brutal in some scenes, over all the movie makes you feel good without being one of those sappy films. I believe that it would be enjoyed by any age adult. It's on my very short list of movies to recommend.
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It's old but it's good. I strongly recommend it!
susi-230 October 1998
A good- no- great performance by Barbra Streisand. It is a Drama which touches on real life issues and offers a different approach to the mentally insane legal proceedings. If you like to analyze people and should watch this movie. It's excellent.
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Unintentional Camp
aj9899 July 2015
Barbra Streisand as a call girl (a "high end" one of course) who has gone more than a little nutty. Leslie Nielsen as a crazed John who attacks Streisand while wearing some very tiny black bikini briefs. Richard Dreyfuss as Streisand's hyper public defender. Dialogue such as "I get four-hundred dollars for a straight lay, three-hundred for a hand job, and five-hundred for head. If you want to wear my panties, that's another hundred" and "Don't judge my blow jobs, they were sane." All makes for a rather unintentionally campy movie and this camp factor is only ratcheted up by the serious way the film was made.

Streisand, admittedly, is entertaining in the role, even if the constant muttering to herself gets a little old after 30 minutes and becomes a little too theatrical in a look at me "I'm acting" kind of way. Nuts was based on a play originally produced in the 1970s and this film version, directed by the great Martin Ritt, is unable to overcome its original theatrical limitations. The film is unendingly claustrophobic, for example. There is only one scene that takes place outdoors - the final one. Moreover, the premise is awfully limited and despite Streisand's star power and the over the top concept of a nutty hooker killing one of her clients this film at its core is just a standard TV courtroom drama.
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Richard Dreyfuss makes a great lawyer
Nick Damian21 August 2009
Yes, the multi-talented Richard Dreyfuss makes a great lawyer.

There's something about him that just kicks everything he does into high gear - even if it's a crappy movie in general.

He's gone that sparkle that not many others have.

He's got more sparkle than Al Pacino and De Niro.

If I were to go on trial for a serious crime, I would want Richard Dreyfuss backing me up...

The movie was OK, I don't think she was nuts from the very opening scene, not any of the rest of the movie made me think she was nuts - so why would anybody else think she was nuts? I guess because it needed a title and every other court room title was taken.

Anyways, it's a decent movie - nothing too exuberant and nothing award winning, but the roles for most actors were pretty darn good and because of Richard's screen charisma, it get's a 7.
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Her own best interest
bkoganbing9 September 2016
Barbra Streisand herself must have seen the potential of the play Nuts for a big screen drama. In Nuts she fulfilled the ambition of every player I know to get a courtroom drama. In fact a whole bunch of players got their turn to strut their stuff in Nuts.

The play by Tom Topor only ran 96 performances on Broadway, but the producers were wise enough to retain Topor to expand his work so it is not just confined to a courtroom in the same way A Few Good Men was adapted to the big screen. The issue is whether the lawyer hired by Streisand's parents is acting in her best interests in getting her declared not mentally competent enough to stand trial. Streisand insists she's perfectly sane. But assaulting her own high priced mouthpiece William Prince in open court might not have been the best way to go in proving it. Needing an attorney real fast she gets a legal aid attorney in Richard Dreyfuss who gets dragged unwillingly into the case.

After that we get to James Whitmore's court where the issue will be joined. To some degree Whitmore, prosecutor Robert Webber, court psychiatrist Eli Wallach, and Dreyfuss is defending "the system" and their role in it.

Barbra's a high class hooker who gets $500.00 a night and she is accused of killing client Leslie Nielsen who's a brutish sort of lout and we see what really went down in flashback. But speaking of vested interests it's clear that Streisand's wealthy parents Maureen Stapleton and Karl Malden have clear vested interests in getting her confined to a mental institution instead of a public trial.

Like A Few Good Men a great ensemble cast brings this story to life and it's riveting. In fact one of the things you'll question is whether Streisand herself is acting in her own best interests.

Nuts is a great drama asking questions with deep implications about our mental health system as it applies to criminal justice. We often hear of people trying to 'get off' from criminal responsibility by pleading temporary insanity. That is a course that has its own pitfalls as Nuts clearly demonstrates.

The viewer because of the flashbacks knows the real story. One of the great strengths of Nuts is that anyone might draw different conclusions as to whether Streisand is acting in her own best interests.

I'm astounded that Nuts did not merit any Oscar consideration. That to me is Nuts.
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Barbra Tells Us How The Cow Ate The Cabbage.
Robert J. Maxwell5 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In this movie, Barbra Streisand is victimized by everyone -- her parents, the justice system, the johns she entertains -- and therefore the movie qualifies for entry into the genre of fantasy.

Streisand, a hooker, has a court hearing before a judge, the always admirable James Whitmore, to decide if she's too crazy to stand trial for manslaughter one, after killing a client who was apparently about to kill her.

It's her intent to be judged sane enough to stand trial and what she wants, she gets. She's defended by Richard Dreyfus and prosecuted by Robert Webber. Her parents, Maureen Stapleton and Karl Malden, attend the two-day hearing.

Streisand's character was raised in a rather well-off middle-class family, but her life has been chaotic, misbehavior in high school, the collapse of a ten-year marriage, smoking (gulp) marijuana, and finally becoming a high-end prostitute. Streisand interrupts the highly ritualized hearing by banging on glass tumblers, shouting, and otherwise disrupting the tranquility of the court.

Leslie Nielsen is the client who tries to kill her. She kills him instead, by stabbing him in the neck with a sharp shard of broken mirror, which is a common Hollywood convention, akin to knocking an opponent out by butting forehead, but it's still a violation of Newton's third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Anyway, there is obviously going to be a damned good reason for Streisand's unusual behavior. It's pretty generic. All the men in her life have been idiots, just as most of the men in this movie are. But the moment it was disclosed that Karl Malden was merely her stepfather, not her biological parent, we knew we were to be faced with the iron causality of childhood sexual abuse.

Streisand is a curiously attractive woman with considerable acting talent and a fine singing voice. But she has an ego the size of New Guinea. To her coworkers, she is as the nutcracker is to the walnut. So it's easy to see why she would find this role suitable. She gets to tell everybody off and insult them freely. The script makes it easy for her because, aside from Whitmore's judge and Dreyfus' defense attorney, everybody from the doctor on down is a liar and a moron.

The drama itself is a little sluggish but interesting in its details. Even sluggish courtroom dramas are interesting though, if they're at all well done, as this one is. Of course, Streisand's character could have obviated the mishigas if she had just taken the stand and told the truth right off the bat, but if she'd done that there would have been no movie. It would have been like Hamlet killing Claudius at the beginning, or the Indians shooting the horses instead of trying to pick off the stagecoach passengers.
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should be Required Viewing
In quick Review: Daughter protects her life and is charged with manslaughter in the first... but is she competent to stand trial and aid in her own defense?...that's the simple question the plot hinges upon... and it serves as a good vehicle to make social comments about molestation, freedom of speech, professional diligence, justice, anger management, tolerance, and most of all COURAGE to stand for one's beliefs.

The critical moments when daughter looks at mom and when the pain from cross examining the step dad... and then mom and daughter forgave...that's what movies are about... this should be required viewing for all young people by the eight grade... wake up America !!!
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Despite it all, it still stands up
James-18427 September 2000
It's hard to appreciate this film if you were raised on a strict diet of, say, Law & Order, The Practice, even Ally McBeal.

The courtroom conduct makes more modern viewers shout out our own relevance objections when Richard Dreyfuss fails to do so. In the light of what we're used to, the trial scenes are almost painfully inept--on both sides of the aisle. And nowadays, network TV has more wrenching depictions of child abuse story lines, but if it hadn't been for this film and others like it, we wouldn't be where we are. They broke ground, and the dramas that followed refined the plot lines and honed the tension.

Yes, Streisand is impressive in this role, mixing the high and low of top-dollar call-girl with the stereotypical hooker's slang and crudity. Dreyfuss' incompetence as an attorney in this mental competence hearing at first suggests he's off his game, but it slowly dawns that the actor is portraying a mediocre lawyer, a creature nigh-extinct in today's movies and programs. This average solicitor doesn't miraculously discover the tongue of William Jennings Bryan, nor does he find himself trampled by opposing counsel. As Dreyfuss' character puts it after Streisand has "excused" her first, high-priced attorney, "You had good. Now you've got me." That is precisely the character Dreyfuss portrays.

The film forces comparison with another Dreyfuss-courtroom drama, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" also based on a play. "Nuts" falls short in that competition, even though the sophistication of the characters' understandings of mental states is almost equally dated and thus incredulous to latter-day viewers. In "Horses," it's easier to imagine that the good guys might just lose, and for a courtroom drama, that's a crucial uncertainty. Further, Dreyfuss' quadruple amputee character in "Horses" puts forth a more apparent and accessible frame of mind than Streisand's in "Nuts." She is more animalistic, less eloquent, more bitterly insulting, less achingly sardonic. We can relate more to him, because we're given more to work with.

If you want to rediscover some of the roots of commonplace legal story lines we see in primetime, both films are worth the time.
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The Greatest Star at a Sanity Hearing
theowinthrop8 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
NUTS was a play that was turned into this film that has a first rate cast headed by Barbara Streisand, including Richard Dreyfus, Maureen Stapleton, Karl Malden, Eli Wallach, Robert Webber, James Whitmore, and Leslie Nielson and a top director (Martin Ritt). But it has not gotten the notice it's deserved among Streisand's top performances. I will get to that in a moment.

Streisand is a hooker who has been arrested for the murder of a "John" she picked up. Nielson is the "John", and his performance here is a type of throwback to the usually villainous parts he played in the early half of his career, before he demonstrated his mastery of deadpan comedy. He tries to get rough with Streisand, and in the process of defending herself she causes him to get stabbed. Taken to court for arraignment she finds her mother and step-father (Stapleton and Malden) have arranged for her attorney (William Prince) to plead guilty on account of insanity. She gets quite upset about this, and manages to punch Prince in the mouth, breaking some teeth, and making him decide to drop this client. Dreyfus, a struggling defense attorney, is picked by the arraignment judge to handle the defense.

Slowly Dreyfus and Streisand find a way of working together - and find it is an uphill battle. Streisand insists that she is sane, and that it was an accident not murder. Dreyfus believes her, but has to fight a top flight assistant district attorney (Webber) who has an accredited psychiatric expert (Wallach) ready to testify to Streisand's insanity. Fortunately the Judge (Whitmore) is pretty fair minded.

I notice that parts of the resolution of the story appear on the other comments on this board, so I will refrain. Suffice to say that Streisand not only discredits Wallach quite well, but she also manages to trace her choice of profession to a damaged childhood.

NUTS, as I said before, did not get the exposure of THE WAY WE WERE or WHAT'S UP DOC? or THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES or YENTL as a key performance in the Streisand legend, and yet it bears comparison to them or her two appearances as Fanny Brice. Why was it ignored? I suspect it was that it came at the point where Streisand began making movies every couple of years instead of year after year, and that it was also made just before the change in Streisand film career when she turned director as well as actor. YENTL, THE PRINCE OF TIDES, and THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES were far more personal films than NUTS was. Then again, it was not the first time Streisand handled the role of a hooker. She played a similar role in THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT opposite George Segal (although that was a comedy, not a drama). So it fell into a hole in the Streisand career - and was unfairly forgotten. It should not be, for it was well made, well acted, and thoughtful about the causes of the choices in lifestyles we make. I give it "10" out of "10".
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