By Jess Lomas
March 6, 2013
Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).
William Wyler’s 1968 musical comedy Funny Girl tells the age-old story of a woman’s career succeeding at the cost of her relationship. It seems ladies really can’t have it all. The film, written by Isobel Lennart, is inspired by the life of Broadway star Fanny Brice and her relationship with Nicky Arnstein, a self confessed gambler. Lennart adapted the screenplay from her novel and the Broadway play of the same name, the latter of which starred Barbra Streisand. She reprised the role of Fanny in her feature debut and took home an Oscar for her efforts.
From the streets of New York’s Lower East Side to the lush apartments of Park Avenue, Fanny’s fast talking and wit sees her skyrocket from failed showgirl to leading lady in the Ziegfeld Follies. Along the way she catches the eye of the handsome playboy Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif), whom she eventually marries despite warnings from those around her, including her mother Rose (Kay Medford). As Nick’s gambling sees him lose the country estate and toe the line of financial ruin, Fanny’s career under the legendary Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter Pidgeon) continues to flourish, something which might prove to end her relationship with Nick once and for all.
There’s no denying this is Babs’ movie, and try as they might, the supporting cast can’t hold a candle to the light that she radiates through show-stopping numbers such as Rain on My Parade. There’s a certain chemistry between Streisand and Sharif; the sort of on-screen passion that makes the fate of their relationship all the more depressing. However, his performance in general is quite stilted, despite Wyler and Lennart making his character entirely more likeable than his real-life inspiration.
If one was to pick a problem with Funny Girl, it would be its length. At a bloated 151 minutes, the picture has its fair share of lingering scenes and even demands its own self-imposed intermission. Thankfully, the comedy Streisand brings to the role and the lure of an ill-fated love affair are enough to keep any musical lover invested.
Funny Girl is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly via Quickflix Play.