I Saw A Film!

Was the world really clamoring for a Steisand / O’Neal reunion or was this hokey comic mis-adventure just taking advantage of the wake caused by the mega-success of Rocky?

This is the perm era. Barbara has a ridiculous perm (and in one of the film’s outfits she posed for a Playboy spread when I was a kid!) She’s still her fast-talking hawk-nosed self and weirdly cute in a way you can’t put your finger on–good schtick that, sell it! But it’s been a good six or seven years since we were subjected to the riotous What’s Up Doc? A film in which it was quite normal for our heroes to be riding a street vendor’s bicycle cart, with a Chinese festival dragon draped over them, down the steep hills of San Francisco. The term used often for this is “screwball comedy”. This time we’re meant to accept that Barbara has been duped by a business partner and now is left with a singular asset in the form of a former boxer turned driving instructor. We don’t need to know all the details. We just want this scenario where Barbara is ringside to a snarky O’Neal giving him goofy fight directions from a manual.

The fun, of course, is really minimal to any modern audience now conditioned to seeing ladies in prize fights, and the near universality of fight training (has anyone not been training for a UFC fight?). This is no tale of James Braddock, but we are playing with a “Cinderella” story. O’Neal is not meant to win anything. He was never a good boxer (his plan was to just earn easy money while pretending to be a boxer), but somehow Babs manages to get the best out of him with her unending cute-but-oblivious routine. The lesson seems to be one of even if you don’t have a clue what’s involved in success in a particular field just be as ceaselessly adorable and flakey as possible. Enthusiasm is really all that will ever be required. Streisand is a particular kind of adorable clown (rekindling an I Love Lucy vibe) and O’Neal is her suffering object of affection and hopes of making her way back to financial liquidity. I tend toward these films of hopeful love even for the down-and-out losers who weren’t able to make their dreams come true. It’s our lives in a nutshell, after all how many of us can realize the fantasies we had in high school? Making money in sports or arts is usually a kind of fantasy for most of us, ending up in a “regular job” paying the bills, is where we mostly end up.

At boxing camp, the pair eventually wind up in a bed together (just circumstances) and the sort of shy playful/hopeful immature adults attracted to one another but not wanting to overstep any kind of prudish social boundary would be right at home in a Bollywood or typical anime. We’re supposed to be titillated by Barbara’s cutesy tease, titillated! Fine, be that way. It’s one of those movies where we look away and assume they managed to work out an intercourse scheme without help. Are they “in love” now? Well, they’re still talking about monies owed, so perhaps they need to try a bit harder.

Maybe there could have been one more of these movies, around 1999 when their adult children would be trying to make decisions about what they would become. Did the perfumery come back into being? Would there be a Kid Natural boxing camp? Is there really any way to keep a sweetness based on this kind of adversity rolling? Does desperation create opportunities or does it create a misery that requires therapy and pharmaceuticals? How long would it take to get over the spontaneous cuteness of a driven Streisand character fast-talking her way into and over your comfortable life? Did the relationship transform as their fortunes didn’t?

These sorts of films always bring up more questions than they answer! This was two bucks on Prime- one dollar for each co-star. Incidentally, Paul Sand is quite good as the very reasonable ex-husband/lawyer of Babs. Enjoy!

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