The subject of this rags-to-riches biopic is Fanny Brice, a young woman who overcomes a lack of conventional attractiveness and a welter of personal insecurities to dominate her chosen field by the sheer aggressive ferocity of her talent. The star of the film, making her movie debut, is Barbra Streisand. And, almost 35 years later, the only enduring fascination of Funny Girl is the degree to which it enshrines Streisand’s self-made myth — the ugly-duckling persona, the simultaneous need for total control and total approval, the glorification of the Talent That Outshines All — while pretending to tell someone else’s story. As biography, under the creaky late-career direction of the great William Wyler, it’s paced like a state funeral. But as an exercise in unintentional self-revelation, it’s mesmerizing, with Streisand hammering home the comedy, mowing down the look-at-me musical numbers, and — on the rare occasion when she’s not pushing too hard — coming up with an unexpectedly moving moment.

Funny Girl
  • Movie
  • 151 minutes