Nuts [1987]

What's Up, Doc? (1972) Director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) tipped his hat to the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s, and especially the most glorious of them all, Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby. Barbra Streisand plays a charming flake who distracts a self-absorbed musicologist (Ryan O'Neal). He's engaged to be married, but soon Streisand's character has him chasing after stolen jewelry and getting into one madcap fix after another. Bogdanovich, who is also a film critic, understands the engine of the screwball genre, and his loving revival of the form brings a smile, though it is not quite consistently inspired or funny. There are plenty of great moments, however, including a slap at O'Neal's own star-making vehicle, Love Story. --Tom Keogh Up the Sandbox (1972) Although not as successful as What's Up, Doc? or The Way We Were, Up the Sandbox springs from the early 1970s, when Barbra Streisand's career was in full stride. Streisand stars as Margaret, a stay-at-home mom in the middle of New York who's feeling the strain of her narrow life. Frustrated by her self-involved husband and the emotionally rewarding but mentally unstimulating tasks of motherhood, she escapes into fantasies--such as being hit on by a cross-gendered Fidel Castro, bombing the Statue of Liberty with black militants, and having a furious catfight with her overbearing mother. The movie's strength lies in these fantasies' slippery nature; some are over the top, but others are so subtle you're not always sure where they start and stop, making the portrait of Margaret's psyche intriguingly complex. Streisand fans should check out this sleeper. --Bret Fetzer The Main Event (1979) Comedic misfire from the mid-1970s in a futile attempt to bottle the same lightning that struck when Barbra Streisand teamed with Ryan O'Neal in What's Up, Doc? Here, Streisand plays a spoiled rich girl, the head of a bankrupt cosmetics company, who discovers she's lost everything--except her ownership of the contract of a washed-up boxer (O'Neal, known for his combative nature offscreen). So she tries to rally this dispirited pug into a comeback that will earn the kinds of purses that will put her back on her feet. Naturally, in the process romantic sparks are kindled. But despite a loud and energetic performance by Streisand, this Howard Zieff comedy doesn't add up to much. --Marshall Fine Nuts (1987) Barbra Streisand is a mad high-priced "escort" accused of murder, but whether she's mad as hell or mad as a hatter is the question in this courtroom drama, adapted from the play by Tom Topor. While her doting, willfully uncomprehending mother (Maureen Stapleton) and stepdad with a secret (Karl Malden) try to have her judged incompetent and sent to an asylum, she fights for her day in court with the help of a hapless legal aid attorney (a refreshingly understated Richard Dreyfuss). James Whitmore presides over the hearing with a compassion and sense of justice that gives one faith in a system and la Streisand (who developed and produced the project) sinks her teeth into the tempestuous role like a starving actress. The plot holds few surprised, but the drama lies in the characters and veteran director Martin Ritt (Hud) brings out the best in a top-flight cast. --Sean Axmaker

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