The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
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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.
It starts rather mediocre when Streisand and Jeff Bridges get to know each other, talk some silly stuff and behave like little children. From time to time it gives a number of very good lines to Lauren Bacall, who is perfect as Streisand's mother. By the time Streisand and Bridges get married you are tempted to say: "Yes, very nice, but it's crap actually, isn't it?" But you won't think of saying that in the end.
The movie is a romantic comedy - containing a couple of cliches, fine - but with a new, non-cliche structure. This is no kitsch, not at all, oh no! Instead, it's made up of very good lines and very truthful moments. These are connected in a way that makes our emotion rise but leaves us unable to tell which words, which gestures made it rise. How come? The romance doesn't develop in the way we would expect it and have seen it many times before, no, this romantic comedy goes the long way round: First there is only a small deal of attraction, then there is previously unknown disillusionment - a black hole almost - and then love enters the stage. The final romantic scene fits into romantic comedy conventions, but it also fits into the picture and Streisand and Bridges deserve it. What a wonderful movie!
Basically Barbra Streisand is a good actress, but she loves exaggerating. She is able to manage difficult scenes, but she tries to be funny where being funny can't work and sometimes she's just hopping through the scene like a twittering sparrow instead of performing the emotions required for that scene. And after her metamorphosis she's more interested in her make-up than in her character.
Lauren Bacall plays a mean, self-addicted and vain old beast with a heart and a vulnerable soul. The scene where mother and daughter talk openly in the kitchen is wonderful. Even Pierce Brosnan is better than I would have expected.
Finally, the movie shows us the great versatility of Jeff Bridges: you've never seen him so very soft before (rude as he was in "The Fabulous Baker Boys", cool in "Nadine" or smooth and evil in "Jagged Edge"). However, he is exaggerating, too: which man can act this untruthful and affected?! In the scenes from Streisand's and his marriage his character is almost eerie - may this be good or bad for the movie...
But I am not a member of the Streisand-As-Diva Fan Club. As great as her talents are, her taste sucks, and she consistently overestimates and overreaches her talents in pursuit of really cheesy and juvenile self gratification. So we get misfires like "Yentl" (which Isaac Bashevis Singer hated), and we also get bloated exercises in ego,like her remake of "A Star Is Born", "The Prince Of Tides", "Nuts", and this piece of fish-wrap.
The problem with this movie isn't in her performance, which is good in the service of the script. The problem is in the writing, and it's the same problem with every other recent Streisand film: she wants to be viewed as some kind of beauty queen and sexual powerhouse, and apparently she also wants to be seen as 20-30 years younger than she actually is. But with her face and features, that just isn't going to happen. Well, if your definition of sexual powerhouse includes overwhelming belief in and seriousness about your talents (ie, Diva-like self-importance), maybe she could skate by there. But no one will ever include her in a Playboy calendar or a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Accept it, Barbra, and move on.
But the goldarn movie just won't let it rest. In every scene, even the ones where Streisand is supposed to be a dowdy ugly duckling, her skin is perfect, her makeup is perfect, the lighting on her is perfect, and her every line and delivery is calculated to frame her in the most sympathetic and flattering way possible. In every scene she's in (and Streisand is front and center 90% of the time), Streisand the director is shoving herself in the viewers' face, saying "Aren't I sexy? Aren't I precious? Aren't I actually the most winsome, lovable, attractive young thing you ever saw, even if the script says I can't get a man - yet?'
As Joe Queenan puts it, her entire 'transformation' from ugly duckling to desirable goddess "consists of losing six ounces, getting a frizzy poodle haircut, and buying a cheap dress." She looks exactly the same as before, only now Jeff Bridges' character is supposed to be stunned by her desirability and beg to take her back. And let's face it, even in the persona of a nerd math professor, Jeff is still one of the sexiest leading men of the last two decades. So this is about on the same level as me fantasizing about Dominique Swain begging me to take her back after I buy some new suits and lose an inch off my waist on a low carb diet.
And in response to Jeff begging to get back together, Streisand the director has Streisand the actress deliver an "I desired you once, but now I've moved beyond you" oration that is a patent by-the-numbers REVENGE fantasy put down; it's the speech composed in the fantasies of any girl who was ever dumped by any boy in the history of romance. Hell, it's not a speech, it's a bumper sticker. And it is delivered with such relish that you can literally see Barbra getting her own back from every unhappy romance or unrequited longing she ever felt. It is completely self indulgent and has a stale musty aura of intellectual and emotional self-diddling. IMO, this is supposed to be the emotional climax of the film, but it's got the maturity of an old "Virginia Slims" commercial.
On the positive side, this is an 'A' level production, with great sets and costumes, good performances from Lauren Bacall and Mimi Rogers, and even a few funny lines. And Barbra sounds great on the sound track singing the title piece.
Note to Barbra Streisand: You are one of the most admired and respected singers and actresses in the world. You have millions of dollars and unlimited license to undertake any recording project you want. You even look pretty good in a middle-aged-dynamic-businesswoman kind of way. You've won. Please, please, stop scoring easy points in self-indulgent movie fantasies about how gorgeous and young you are.
Babs stars as Rose, a Professor of Literature at Columbia University in New York who is basically, desperate and dateless. Jeff Bridges (in a humorous and charming performance) plays Professor Gregory Larkin, a man who is constantly losing his mind over unobtainable women. In his frustration and belief that "sexual attraction ruins all relationships", he decides to place an ad in the paper for a female companion, "appearance unimportant". When Rose's sister (Mimi Rogers) answers the ad on her behalf, the 2 begin a relationship that eventually reveals what love is really all about.
This film is funny, moving and romantic. My husband really doesn't really enjoy it, which could indicate the average male's perspective, but I'd highly recommend it for someone looking for a soppy night in!
Both Streisand and Bridges are a pair of Columbia University professors, she of English, him of Mathematics. They've come to opposite conclusions about life and love. Barbra wants some love in her life, but Bridges having been burned a little too often in relationships is swearing off sex.
I like what director Streisand did with Bridges's character. I can identify with the students in his class, you spell it B-O-R-I-N-G. There are some people who are turned on by math, I'm not one of them. I sat through too many teachers who could not pique my interest in the slightest and many who were like Bridges as Barbra describes him, having his own math party at the blackboard. No one ever made it relevant for me in my academic career.
Barbra didn't do too bad with the rest of the cast which includes her mother Lauren Bacall, her sister Mimi Rogers, her wolfish brother-in-law Pierce Brosnan, best friend Brenda Vaccaro, and Bridges best friend George Segal who is a cheerful middle aged hedonist and loving every minute of it.
Lauren Bacall got her one Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and I thought sure she would cap her career with that Oscar. She lost to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient. But Bacall is absolutely stunning as the mother who Barbra convinces that her life isn't over either.
For the acclaim it got, The Mirror Has Two Faces should have gotten a lot more, including a Best Director nomination for Barbra Streisand. And this review is dedicated to all of us who had to sit through a boring professor having his own private math party at the blackboard.
First off, why must a woman re-make herself totally in order to be seen as sexually attractive? Rose looked far better at the start of the movie than she did at the end. Secondly, What was wrong with the way "Rose" looked at the start of the movie? Totally comfortable, quirky, and sensible. And the idea that a size eight is considered "fat" .... well, I just rolled at that one.
Rose does repudiate sheer looks by the end of the film, but the moment is almost too tiny to be noticed. The bulk of the film shows a woman thinking she's ugly, when she is far from it (but that's a Streisand trope: Babs, you have a big nose, and who cares? You look fine and very attractive), and thinking that comfortable clothes mean frumpiness. It encourages the over-awareness of body--since when has a size eight been "too fat"?????? Basically, Rose's re-awakening to the importance of mind and self, not external standards of beauty, is too little to compensate for all the rest of the film.
Here's the dishonesty: In the first half, we see that everyone who's attractive is also defective in some way. Husband is a jerk, sexless, a bore, mother jealous and vain, sister has no personality. In fact, why is Streisand so madly in love with a man who's such a jerk? Streisand shines as funny, intelligent, personable, well-liked by everyone. And our view of what's pretty has changed a lot since Streisand came along in the 60's. Meryl Streep's long nose or Jolie's oversize lips would never have been acceptable before Streisand. OK, she doesn't know how to dress, but is certainly printed as attractive. The camera, as usual, loves her. And in real life Streisand has always been attractive to attractive men.
After showing us that physical beauty is not that important, the film then goes on to prove that the same woman, made more physically beautiful, can now attract her cold jerk of a husband and her sister's shallow ex. Husband even tells her that he's always found her sexy, it's just that he hadn't been interested. Such inconsistency in the writing.
While the storyline is predictable, the movie is actually very well-done with a brisk pace, compelling characters, and a witty screenplay. The finale may come down a bit heavy-handed on the "message" end, but the build-up is effective enough to merit this indulgence. Though MIRROR doesn't match her previous two directorial efforts, Streisand does once again pull off the various actress/producer/director roles with great efficiently, and this results in an effective star vehicle for the then-54-year-old film legend. Jeff Bridges received a lot of flack for his completely unselfconscious portrayal, but I admire how completely he throws himself into the silly role. Lauren Bacall is brilliantly biting and luminous in her turn as Streisand's mother, a role that earned her first (and so far only) Oscar nomination. Mimi Rogers is also fun as Streisand's slutty younger sister, as is Brenda Vaccaro as her self-deprecating best friend - although Pierce Brosnan is wasted as a gigolo-like suitor. All in all, an enjoyably fluffy film, undeserving of the criticism it routinely receives.
When our local cable company started running this film a month ago, I had almost forgotten that I had seen it in the theater when it first came out. I was reminded of how much I had missed the film and started watching it again. I was surprised and pleased to find that I still enjoy it and I've watched it faithfully every time that it's shown.
Jeff Bridges plays a Columbia University mathematics professor, Gregory Larkin. He is good looking but a boring, lonely man, whose relationships with beautiful women never work out. He wants one that is platonic, which is founded on respect, intelligence and a passion for ideas. Inspired by a television ad, he takes out his own personal ad and finds several applicants, which includes another Columbia University literature professor Rose Morgan through her sister, Claire, who answers the ad.
Gregory calls her one night after visiting her class and asks her to dinner where the two of them hit it off. Three months later, Gregory proposes and explains the arrangement, although, he tells her that if she wants sex, given enough of a warning, he'll be able to provide that. Rose accepts, even though she wants more. She gets her chance after she helps Greg with his teaching and he asks her if he can return the favor. And that's when things go horribly wrong.
While I'm not a big fan of Barbra Streisand, I find this romantic comedy to be witty and intelligent. The acting is sensational on all fronts, especially from Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges and Lauren Bacall who are its standouts. The chemistry between Ms. Streisand and Mr. Bridges is perfect and their romantic scenes are wonderful to watch, especially the final scene.
The story centers on Rose Morgan(Barbra Streisand), a literature teacher in Columbia's University, and on Gregory Larkin(Jeff Bridges), a math teacher on the same university. Gregory looks for a relationship based on mutual respect and not in physical attraction, and Rose looks for any relationship with an average good looking man. So when Rose's sister joins them by answering an internet advertisement put by Gregory, they begin to date and the even get married, without having any physical contact. But when Rose looks for it, Gregory argues with her and she decides to go to her home with her mother(Lauren Bacall).
Until this point of the film, Streisand looks at her character(Rose) with objectivity, never making of her a very desirable good looking woman. But in the second half of the film she works in her characteristic self absorbing way. Rose decides, thanks to her mother's advise, to change her appearance. So, she begins to do some exercise, to wear make up and very elegant clothes, and to eat less. But when Gregory looks at her, he only criticizes her and she goes from home telling him that she doesn't love him anymore. At the end, Gregory realizes that he loves Rose, and they both end up together in a very romantic closing scene.
Many people, specially critics, hated the movie arguing that it was another vanity project made by Sterisand, but it much more than that. "The mirror has two faces" is a serious analysis to the relationships and how the physical and intellectual part influences them. It is true that the movie would work better if Sterisand had chosen another woman to play her character, but at the end the result is a satisfying movie with great performances and a good story.
In this movie, Barbra Streisand is able to do the following: be a super-smart but plain-looking woman professor who is loved by her students; as this character, and against her expectations, get herself a man who's both hunky and brilliant (Jeff Bridges); go through an ugly duckling-swan transformation; and have Lauren Bacall for her mother (though the mother is pretty toxic until fairly far along).
Pretty satisfying if you're looking for a feel-good story with a bit of a feminist spin. I wish however that someone had asked me for my opinion about the makeover, the body and dress were fine (from shapeless to fit & foxy), but oh, that hair!!! Why not really splashy blonde, or leave it alone, instead of that too-silvery highlighted frizz? And why no red lipstick? Lauren Bacall was right, she needed more color.
The bit of psychologizing between Barbra & Mom was effective as far as I was concerned, and I like seeing the potential it released in our Barbra. Overall - a B+ chickflick, a good resource if you can't watch any more Hugh Grant or Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan stories & need a nice sniffle.
'The Mirror Has Two Faces' works big time, because it has a story to tell... a story that has it's share of WOW moments, no wonder this film was a box office super-hit during it's release way back 1996. With a running time of 126 minutes, here's a film we'll not forget for at least the next 2 decades!
Streisand's direction is perfect, so is her signing and her acting. An all-rounder! Jeff Bridges pitches in an Incredible performance. The Academy Award-Winning Actor never disappoints! Lauren Bacall is fantastic as Streisand's old and groovy mom. Pierce Brosnan is very okay, mainly because he gets nothing to do but stock his wife everywhere!
On the whole, 'The Mirror Has Two Faces' is a classic... Two Thumbs Up!
O.k., fair enough, I don't begrudge her the sentiment, but the film she made to express it is all soft. It exists mostly as a vanity project for Streisand, who goes from frump to glamour puss over the course of its two-hour running time. Jeff Bridges is always winning and likable, and so he is here as Streisand's love interest. His presence is almost enough to make up for the tired and generic theme song.
The film is probably most famous for NOT bringing Lauren Bacall a much-anticipated Oscar, which went instead to Juliette Binoche in one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.