For decades, Barbra Streisand has been on the top rung of Hollywood’s star ladder, but as her new film The Mirror Has Two Faces opens, the actress tells Hannah Fries there’s more to life than surface glitz.
Everyone expects Barbra Streisand to be hugely driven. After all. she is the plain Jewish girl from an unhappy Brooklyn home who took on Hollywood and won. Nearly 30 years after she won an Oscar for Funny Girl. Streisand is still acting in. directing and producing her own films. She has been described as an egomaniacal tyrant before. Surely ‘driven’ is not too much to ask?
Yet today Streisand arrives late and doesn't seem altogether on top of the world. Her schedule for promoting the film is no doubt draining. but Streisand is unmistakably weary — and honest enough not to deny it. ‘l'm sure I was driven. but I‘m not driven now.‘ she says. ‘l don’t make films very often. There’s eight years. five years in between. Most ﬁlmmakers make a ﬁlm every year or two years. i don‘t work that often. I like a lot of free tirne.‘
It is clear that Streisand is not interested in projecting a ‘star' persona. ‘To tell the truth. l‘m more ofa schlump.‘ she admits. ‘it‘s hard to get up and have somebody curl your hair to look good for a press conference. l‘m a very simple person at home. i stay at borne. I read. I don't go to openings of movies. i wear very simple clothes like sweatsuits and sneakers. Very unglamorous.’
Perhaps she is so much a star that she knows she
cannot lose that status. Or perhaps she is genuinely sick of living in the limelight. where everything she does. from filmmaking to friendship with Andre Agassi. is dissected by the media. ‘Success isn't the bc-all-and-end—all like it seems to be portrayed in the culture.‘ she says with certainty. ‘Celebrity and success are made out to be so important. l don‘t know quite why. if I had to trade places. l'd rather have achieved less and have my father.‘
Streisand‘s father died when she was fifteen- months-old. yet he is still important to her. His photograph even appears as her on-screen father in The Mirror Hus 'Iim I’ur'es. ‘I didn't know my father.‘ she says. ‘but i know him in every cell of my body. I am him. My father was a teacher. and l‘m very proud of him. l‘m very proud to be his daughter.‘
Fitting her words. Streisand’s manner as she talks is candid. intelligent and rather serious. She looks stunning. but tells us not to be distracted by mere surface. ‘l never thought i was very attractive.
' , a Barbra Streisand: ‘candid, intelligent and rather serious’
although at moments I think l‘m very attractive. it's been like that ever since I was a child. l owe my career to my mother because she made me want to prove to her that I could be somebody beyond what her thoughts of me were. That's what The Mirror Hus THY) Faces is saying: how important the role of the parent is to the self-esteem of a child. lfyour parent tells you you're smart. you grow up thinking you‘re smart. lfthey tell you you're good-looking. you think you‘re good-looking. lfyou feel loved as a child. you feel like you're worthy of love in the world.‘
Much is made of Streisand‘s closeness to the characters she chooses to play. but she reckons audiences shouldn't assume this means they know her. ‘lf you play a part well. then people think you are the person you play. Like if I sing “l'm The Greatest Star” people think that‘s what i think or i wrote it or something. It's funny. I don't know quite what 1 represent. i don‘t feel like l'm larger than life.‘
The Mirror Hus 'Iim I’ut'es goes on general release ml I’ri I () Jun.
THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES
love her or loathe her, you can’t deny that Barbra Streisand gets the job done. Few other people are able to keep on producing films about the lives of middle-aged women that don’t turn out like The First Wives club.
liere Streisand directs herself as Bose, an unmarried English professor living with her mother (the serene Lauren Bacall), who meets stuffy maths lecturer Gregory (Jeff Bridges) after he advertises for female companionship. lie is tired of the
lauren Bacall: ‘steals every scene'
fickleness of lust and seeks a partner of the head, not the heart. She, on the other hand, wants love but will settle for being around the man she desires.
The twists and turns of this romantic comedy will come as no surprise to anyone with a nodding acquaintance with the genre, and Bose spends so much time ostentatioust dressing down that her later ugly duckling transformation shocks no one but the dim-wilted Gregory. Also, having Bacall around is a mixed blessing. Stealing every scene and garnering the funniest lines, she trades off her real-life glamour past with aplomb, but takes interest away from Streisand’s character as a result.
A few sharp points are made about female beauty and men’s Pavlovian response to it and there are a surprising number of laughs. But the one-liners have a focus that the central dramatic relationship lacks. Bridges’s performance is too mannered to convince at the emotional high points, and Streisand is not helped by a script that gives her truisms to spout rather than truths. Still, as producer, director, lead actress and end-credits chanteuse, Babs has to shoulder some of the blame. (Simon Wardell) The Mirror IIas Two Faces (Barbra Streisand, US, 1996) Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges, lauren Bacall. 126 mins. From Fri 10. General release.
The List lO-23 Jan l997 29