Do opposites attract? The Streisand-Segal pairing does in this comedy classic.
Barbra Streisand was a huge star by the time The Owl and the Pussycat was released theatrically. George Segal (TV's Just Shoot Me) had been nominated for an Oscar for Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?. Of course, a project in which Streisand wears a negligee with hands embroidered over her breasts and Segal gets caught wearing a skeleton costume was a natural next step for both actors. Seriously, though, the writing in The Owl and the Pussycat and the skillful character depictions in Buck Henry's script (based on Bill Manhoff's play) made this project a hard one to pass up. The Owl and the Pussycat comes to DVD care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Doris (Barbra Streisand) is a tough-talking prostitute and actress ("I've been in two commercials!"), caught exchanging money for her…ahem…"services" by her neighbor Felix (George Segal), a frustrated intellectual who can't sell his novel to a pawnshop. Evicted due to his whistle-blowing, she barges in on his apartment and the ruckus that ensues causes BOTH to get kicked out. As they scramble from one temporary residence to another, they manage to get along, and in the process fall in love.
When you think Barbra Streisand you certainly don't think "sexy" or "slutty," do you? The Owl and the Pussycat will change your mind. The young, lithe Streisand ate this role up. She's trampy, quick-witted, fast-talking, and delightfully trashy. Against George Segal's Felix, a dorky novelist who is taken aback by her rough attitude, she shines.
The Owl and the Pussycat doesn't try to do much with its protagonists; it simply takes two great actors and throws in some real, old-fashioned dialogue. Two people get to know each other, have sex, and eventually fall in love. Like the best romantic comedies, there's plenty of one-liners and falling flat one's face; the fight in Felix's apartment after Doris barges in at the beginning is hilarious as they scuffle over a TV set and Felix gets locked out. She gets upset by his use of big words, but eventually buys her own guide to extending one's vocabulary. He is horrified by her prostitute stories but delights in the new experiences she has to offer (like getting high). In the best of relationships, the other person enhances their partner's life, showing them new ways of—looking at things; that's why Doris and Felix's chemistry works for the audience—it's what we look for in real life. A romantic comedy, after all, can't work without a dose of reality that the audience can relate to.
Their romance is played for laughs, but it's also sweet and touching. Like most men, Felix has to have a nervous breakdown before deciding Doris is the one for him, in a bittersweet scene set in Central Park. She tucks him into bed when his forehead feels hot, taking his temperature like a regular Florence Nightingale. As each displays their softer side, we realize they have more in common than they think. Both are in transition—still looking for that elusive goal of success; he in writing, she in acting. Finding that common ground draws them together and reflects to the audience a very real struggle that we all experience in relationships. The movie nicely captures New York's funky grit of the '70s with solid direction by Herbert Ross. Lots of great close-ups of Streisand pepper the movie, showcasing her amazing use of that distinct face. Her expressions prove to any doubters that she can act as well as she can sing. Segal owns his role as well, balancing Felix's annoying snobbery with a good dose of vulnerability. After all, he's an intellectual who clerks at a bookstore, well "below" his station. And, despite the mustache, you can see how Doris would fall for Felix. Segal proves he can be a character actor AND a leading man.
Like any relationship, nothing is perfect, and the late first act of The Owl and the Pussycat is a little slow. It threatened to lose me while Doris and Felix bunked down at his friend Barney's. She keeps interrupting his sleep; their bickering is nonstop. After that scene, however, the movie just keeps rolling.
Audio is Dolby Digital Mono, featured in English and French. Since this isn't an action film or adventure, it suits the picture just fine. I found some sloppy layering of sound in a couple scenes with multiple sources of audio, but otherwise dialogue was mostly clean and clear and the music was crisp with no distortion.
The film can be viewed in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen, or a full frame version. Digitally mastered, the colors look great, black levels are fairly crisp, and edge enhancement is minimal. There was a small amount of grain during a few scenes, though this shouldn't interfere with one's enjoyment of the movie.
The DVD is lacking in special features, however. Get this—there's a trailer for The Mirror Has Two Faces, For Pete's Sake, and Roxanne—everything BUT The Owl and the Pussycat. Now why would I want a reminder of the bloated, silly Mirror Has Two Faces when I'm watching one of Bab's best? No documentary, no audio commentary. Not much considering the movie was a big hit upon its initial release. But hey, subtitles come in a variety of languages, from Portuguese to Thai, and there are the requisite boring filmographies of the director and stars that no one reads anyway.
The Owl and the Pussycat is a great example of deceptively simple, perceptive, fun romantic comedies. They don't make 'em like they used to. And seeing Doris' ad for her one movie (read: softcore porn flick) "Cycle Sluts" is certainly a giggle any movie lover (and Streisand fan) will appreciate. "Cycle Sluts"?
This movie will make you want to fall in love—maybe not with a trash-talking prostitute or snobby novelist, but, well, with SOMEONE.
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