Warning: There are spoilers littered throughout this article, please be aware, and don’t be too disappointed if I ruin the movie for you....
Funny Girl was released in 1968, starring one of my personal idols Barbra Streisand in what should be considered an iconic cinematic role. Threading in themes of unfair stereotyping and gender discrimination, the plot follows the talented Fanny Brice, born into poor streets in a Jewish neighborhood. Despite her obvious talent, she can’t seem to make it big on Broadway because of her looks. The film is full of witty insight and comment and some of the iconic lines are not only still adored today but still resonate.
“You think beautiful girls are gonna stay in style forever? You should say not! Any minute now they’ll be out! Finished! Then it’ll be my turn!”
Starting in the present, Brice explores a theatre as she reminisces on her past. She began as a small girl from Henry Street failing dramatically at her dance job, until her singing talent was discovered by an employee. We learn how her name spread quickly, and before she’s reached a year of stardom, Florenz Ziegfeld (a big time on Broadway) is sending Brice telegrams, requesting that she auditions for a role. Despite her utter joy in becoming a “Ziegfeld girl”, she remains reluctant, because of lyrics claiming she is “a beautiful reflection” and others that seem to praise her beauty. Indeed, she has been told quite matter of factly that she isn’t and now believes that in the eyes of the audience she isn’t beautiful.
She does perform however, adding her own twist to the performance by shoving a pillow up her dress and playing it fro laughs as if she wre pregnant. Afterwards, she claims: “They were laughing with me, not at me. It was my joke.”
This comic and original role, now originally made by Brice, allows her to go on tour— where she meets a person who steals her heart... Nick Arnstein. A gambler. A criminal. And a heartthrob. This relationship seems to be “true love”, and the Ross Geller and Rachel Green of 1968 (check this article if you’re interested in friends) . Their relationship is full of ups and downs, putting the viewer through a rollercoaster of emotions. After a marriage and the birth of a daughter, Arnstien ends up in prison due to Nick committing the criminal act of gambling for too much money and running up debt. The press spread quickly and Fanny being the comic that she is, handles the pressure with a polite and funny attitude, however, eventually the press ask the one question that was repeating in Fanny’s mind since she heard about Nick, “Do you still love him, Ms Brice?’’ She is eventually given eighteen months to think about whether she wants a future with Mr Arnstien thanks to him being sentenced to a good stretch inside.. “I cried’ she said ‘but I never really thought.”
Eventually, she decides to leave him, as she expresses in the final song “My Man”, however she makes it through and succeeds in pursuing her dream of making it on Broadway. Making this act one of the many inspiring sections of this movie, feminism truly at its best. Another reason this movie should be the movie of this generation is that it addresses one of the most important modern issues: People not believing you can achieve your dream, due to how you look and not the gifts you behold...
Thank you for reading, I hope I have sparked an interest in Funny Girl, Barbra Streisand and more.