As Barbra Streisand has gotten more ambitious, more powerful, not to mention more old, she has not gotten any more disposed to incorporate these characteristics into her coltish screen persona. We are asked to accept her here not only as an adolescent, but as an adolescent who, with a haircut, can pass herself off as a boy, in order to enter the yeshiva (and, later, wedlock with Amy Irving). It is probably too much to ask that she blacken and kink her hair to fit in with her seminary classmates, but how about a few effeminate men scattered among them to make her a bit less of a sore thumb? The transparency of her disguise might not matter so much if the women's-lib theme of the piece were not treated with such gravity. Not that scenes aren't often played for titters, or don't elicit them whether they are or not. But the underlying seriousness, even grimness, of the project is brutally apparent in those introspective musical soliloquies (with unmemorable melodies by Michel Legrand, and slightly more memorable lyrics, in the sense that any comparable trauma would be memorable, by Alan and Marilyn Bergman: "It seems this little game I play/ Becomes more risky every day"). One cannot fail to find a parallel between the heroine's incursion into the masculine world and Streisand's seizure of the director's chair. But her actual dictates from that post -- mushy telephoto shots, slushy dissolves, buttery yellow light, countless closeups of the star -- ensure that her victory is purely personal. 1983.

Duncan Shepherd

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