Yentl (1983)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Feminist Film, Musical Drama  |   Run Time - 134 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

Barbra Streisand's first directorial effort, Yentl, was met with wildly divergent reviews, with some viewing it as a deeply moving work of art and others deriding it as a ridiculous vanity production that played fast and loose with the Isaac Bashevis Singer story upon which it is based. There's plenty of evidence for both points of view. Detractors can point to an abundance of close-ups for the star, a story line which gives short shrift to the other characters and a score that is sung totally by Streisand. Proponents can counter that the narrow focus is appropriate to the story, that the director draws forth expert performances from Amy Irving and Mandy Patinkin and that the film's defects are made up for by some exceptional cinematography (including a marvelous swirling camera in "Tomorrow Night"), beautiful design, and skillful staging of the musical sequences. The truth is that both sides are right, that Yentl is a fascinating but flawed and uneven film that both benefited from and was damaged by its creator's deeply personal feelings about and interpretation of the material. The attachment Streisand feels to the movie is clear in every frame, but she therefore is unable to distance herself enough to view her work (in all departments) objectively. In addition to the flaws cited above, the movie is overlong, and many of the lyrics are awkward or banal. As usual, Streisand is in spectacular voice, and she acts with great commitment. Critics were generally more receptive to her next directorial effort, The Prince of Tides, which received a Best Picture Oscar nomination.