Could it be that Judge Norman Short gave a mildly positive review...to a Barbra Streisand movie? I think it's time we gave him a vacation, or as those wacky Brits call it, a holiday.
What a woman won't do for love.
I remember this cute little comedy from the days of drive ins, back when Barbra Streisand hadn't yet become a bad word in my vocabulary, with fondness and a touch of nostalgia. It's nothing but a bit of fluff that can make you chuckle, but it succeeds in doing just that, and is now released on DVD with a decent picture and sound, along with a commentary track for seasoning.
Facts of the Case
Henrietta (Barbra Streisand) is married to New York cabbie Pete (Michael Sarrazin), and struggles bills to make ends meet. The whole rat race seems to have a personal vendetta against them, as the money never equals what they need to get ahead, and the only family they have are the snooty and snobbish brother and his wife Helen (Estelle Parsons), who use every opportunity to put her down. It looks like Pete may finally have a way to make some money, but he needs $3000 to do it, and they don't have it. When conventional means of borrowing fail, Henry gets it from a loan shark, and can't pay off fast enough. From there the comedy kicks in as her "contract" is passed from one shady character to another, putting her in ever more ludicrous situations involving a sweet grandmotherly madam, a dead judge in her closet, a bomb, and a herd of cattle stampeding through Brooklyn.
This was basically a vehicle to showcase Barbra Streisand, and show that she could carry a film without singing. She did a remarkably good job; managing to appear perky, zany, and even sexy, while showing her comedic chops. The supporting cast is nearly as good; Estelle Parsons is as schmoozingly evil as they come.
Though I didn't get a lot of belly laughs, I did get a lot of chuckles. The film is charming and well written; it is warm and funny and comfortable. Part farce and part romantic comedy, the chemistry between Streisand and Sarrazin was real and believable. The situations are still the best part of the film; as Henrietta gets herself deeper and deeper in hot water, it gets funnier.
The DVD presentation is adequate to say the least, good to say the best. The picture looks very nice, though suffers from its age in several areas. Colors are a bit faded, the image is a bit soft, and there is a fair amount of grain from the source elements. Still, it is a very watchable picture. The disc comes with an anamorphic transfer on one side and pan and scan on the other. The sound is a workable mono. Dialogue is clear and there is no hiss or crackle. Extra content is fair; the leading feature being the commentary track from director Peter Yates. He provides a decent amount of information, but sometimes you have to wait through long blank periods to get to it. Talent Files and a trailer complete the extra content.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The obvious thing to say against the film is that it is a Barbra Streisand picture. There are a lot of Babs haters out there, and with some reason. But this 1974 film came before a lot of that came about, and she is young, svelte, and perky enough to still be appealing.
The story is predictable from the moment the basic premise is made, so don't expect major surprises, except for just how strange the situations can get. The end will never be in doubt, but this is a fluff piece, and just some light entertainment for an hour and a half. On that level, the film works nicely. Fans of the film probably won't be disappointed with the disc; others might want to give it a rental instead.
There are no charges to be brought here. Certainly more could have been done for the disc, but there is no real negligence. The film itself is innocent.
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