The Mirror Has Two Faces
is a 1996 American romanticcomedy-drama film produced and directed by Barbra Streisand, who also stars. The screenplay by Richard LaGravenese is loosely based on the 1958 French film Le Miroir à deux faces written by André Cayatte and Gérard Oury, which focused on a homely woman who becomes a beauty, which creates problems in her marriage.
The film also stars Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, George Segal, Mimi Rogers, Brenda Vaccaro and Lauren Bacall.
The film received widespread criticism for being an ego production by Streisand who, with Marvin Hamlisch, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, and Bryan Adams, also composed the film's theme song, "I Finally Found Someone", and sang it on the soundtrack with Adams.
Rose Morgan, a shy, plain, middle-aged English literatureprofessor at Columbia University, shares a home with her vain, overbearing mother Hannah. Her attractive sister Claire starts making preparations for her third wedding to Alex (Brosnan), who used to date Rose, so she begins to feel her loveless life is empty.
Gregory Larkin, a Columbia Mathematics teacher feels sex complicates matters between men and women, since he seems to lose all his rational perspective as soon as he is aroused. After his last girlfriend dumps him after a last one night stand before she gets married, he decides to look for a relationship based on the intellectual rather than the physical, based on a suggestion by a sex-phone service, and places an ad in a newspaper.
Claire reads the ad and answers on behalf of Rose. Gregory is intrigued when Claire tells him that Rose teaches English literature at Columbia, so he creeps in to Rose's lecture about chaste love in literature, missing entirely the point she was making. After a series of mishaps, they begin dating and he is impressed by her wit and knowledge and seems to be fascinated by her quirks and mannerisms, which usually drive people crazy. She is also fascinated by the dashing math professor and even helps him improve his teaching techniques. He proposes marriage, on condition that it will be largely platonic, with occasional sex only if she needs it. The prospect of spending the rest of her life as a lonely spinster living with her mother seems far worse than a marriage on those conditions, so Rose accepts.
Rose's attraction to Gregory grows, and one night she attempts to seduce him, much to his annoyance. He had hoped that by then she had given up on the idea of sex, though he admits he initially raised its possibility. He abruptly breaks off their attempt at physical intimacy when he finds himself becoming truly aroused and fears that it will change the safe comfortable feelings he feels towards Rose.
When Gregory departs on a lengthy lecture tour, Rose embarks on a crash course in self-improvement: she diets, exercises, changes her hairstyle, learns to use makeup, and outfits herself in an updated wardrobe. When her husband returns, he finds a very different woman waiting for him and is too startled to express his feelings. She admits that she made a mistake in accepting their passionless marriage, and leaves him. All the while, Rose realizes that everyone, including herself, is now behaving differently towards her improved self, though not always to her liking. Gregory and Rose realize their mutual love has been hindered, not by Rose's appearance, but by Gregory's unusual theories on marriage and sex, and finally recognize their deep affection.
The film had a budget of $42 million, it grossed $41 million in the US and a further $33 million internationally with a worldwide gross of $73 million.
In her review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film's first hour "light and amusing" but added, "Then [Barbra Streisand] demolishes her audience's good will with hubris that goes through the roof. Beguiling as she can be in ugly duckling roles, she becomes insufferable as this story's gloating swan . . . The overkill of The Mirror Has Two Faces is partly offset by Ms. Streisand's genuine diva appeal. The camera does love her, even with a gun to its head. And she's able to wring sympathy and humor from the first half of this role. The film also has a big asset in Ms. Bacall . . [who delivers] her lines with trademark tart panache . . . and cuts an elegant and sardonic figure".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film "approaches the subject of marriage warily and with wit, like a George Bernard Shaw play . . . it's rare to find a film that deals intelligently with issues of sex and love, instead of just assuming that everyone on the screen and in the audience shares the same popular culture assumptions. It's rare, too, to find such verbal characters in a movie, and listening to them talk is one of the pleasures of The Mirror Has Two Faces . . . this is a moving and challenging movie".
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Edward Guthmann described the film as "a silly affirmation fantasy . . . that Streisand . . . uses to prove she's really beautiful, funny and worthy of being loved, gosh darn it . . . hasn't she returned to the theme of Homely Girl Redeemed, and crowned herself the victor, countless times? Look back and you'll see that Streisand's career, from the beginning, was one long battle cry for geeks and wallflowers and Jewish girls with big noses - a series of wish-fulfillment scenarios in which she, the perennial underdog, triumphs by dint of talent, chutzpah and a really great personality . . . in its first half The Mirror is a romantic-comic delight: nicely directed . . . well-acted by a terrific cast and peppered with great one-liners . . . by the second half . . . the movie has disintegrated into a humorless, drawn-out plea for reassurance".
Todd McCarthy of Variety called it "a vanity production of the first order. A staggeringly obsessive expression of the importance of appearances, good looks and being adored, Barbra Streisand's third directorial outing is also, incidentally, a very old-fashioned wish-fulfillment romantic comedy that has been directed and performed in the broadest possible manner . . . From the beginning, it is clear that Streisand intends to hit every point squarely on the head and maybe bang it a few extra times for good measure. Every gag, every line and every emotional cue is pitched to the top balcony so no one will miss a thing, and there are quite a few moments of self-examination and discovery where one nearly expects the star to break into song to underline what she is really feeling . . . the subject of the director's uninterrupted gaze. Lit and posed in an old-time movie star way you rarely see anymore, she plays out her career-long is-she-or-isn't-she-beautiful comic psychodrama one more time, with the girlish uncertainties wiped out with the speed of a costume change. If one were to take it all seriously, one would have to point out that there just isn't that much difference in Rose Before and After, that Streisand hasn't allowed herself to look unappealing enough to justify the big change. No matter. The narcissism on display is astonishing to behold, and veteran Barbra worshipers will have a field day. Beyond that, pic does deliver a number of laughs, deep-dish luxury on the production side and an engagingly enthusiastic performance from Bridges".
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly rated the film C- and added, "We know these two people are lonely and afraid of love and deserve our empathy. But they enact their tightly choreographed pas de deux in such a hermetically sealed universe that our emotions can never be engaged. Instead, we are left to muse, "Oy vey, does Streisand know how over-the-top she is?" That's not to say that Mirror is difficult to sit through. The synthetic one-liners that pass for humor and sentiment . . . are struck regularly, like gongs . . . The settings are pretty. The music is slick".
In the Washington Post, Rita Kempley called the film "Barbra Streisand's latest folly" and added, "Although meant to be a bubbly romantic comedy, the movie is actually a very public tragedy for Streisand, who still can't quite believe that she's not Michelle Pfeiffer . . . at 54, it's time to get over girlish hang-ups, forget the noble schnoz and thank God that unlike Cher, you're still recognizable".
In the newspaper's Weekend section, Desson Howe opined, "For Streisand fans, this ugly-duckling parable . . . is going to be the perfect experience. But for those who make crucifix signs with their fingers when her name is mentioned, this is definitely one to miss . . . the running time is hardly helped by a plethora of strategically framed shots of Rose's legs, new hairstyle, luscious lips and misty-blue eyes, after she has undergone a physical makeover. There is comic relief, however, from Lauren Bacall as Hannah, Rose’s egocentric, materialistic mother. Her withering lines . . . counteract some of the ubiquitous narcissism".
Lauren Bacall's performance earned praise, winning her the Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, the first in her 50-plus year career.
Awards and nominations
Original music for the film was composed by Marvin Hamlisch. The music received a nomination for Best Original Score at the 54th Golden Globe Awards. On November 12, 1996, Sony released the soundtrack on CD. The CD single for "I Finally Found Someone" also contains a Spanish-language version of Streisand's "Evergreen" ("Tema de Amor de Nace Una Estrella"). The soundtrack listing is here:
- "Main Title / In Questa Reggia"
- "Got Any Scotch?"
- "An Ad?"
- "In a Sentimental Mood"
- "Rose Sees Greg"
- "Alex Hurts Rose"
- "The Dating Montage"
- "My Intentions?"
- "You Picked Me!"
- "A Funny Kind of Proposal"
- "Picnic in the Park"
- "Greg Falls For Rose"
- "Try a Little Tenderness" - David Sanborn
- "The Mirror"
- "Going Back to Mom"
- "Rocking in the Chair"
- "The Power Inside of Me" - Richard Marx
- "Rose Leaves Greg"
- "Rose Dumps Alex"
- "Greg Claims Rose"
- "The Apology / Nessun Dorma" - Luciano Pavarotti
- "I Finally Found Someone" - Barbra Streisand & Bryan Adams
- "All of My Life" - Barbra Streisand
, Janet. - Movie Review: "The Mirror Has Two Faces". - New York Times. - November 15, 1996.
Ebert, Roger. - "The Mirror Has Two Faces". - Chicago Sun-Times. - November 15, 1996.
Guthmann, Edward. - "In Babs' Vanity Case, `Mirror' Has One Face: Streisand overdoes the ugly duckling bit". - San Francisco Chronicle. - November 15, 1996.
McCarthy, Todd. - Film: "Also Playing: The Mirror Has Two Faces". - Variety. - November 11, 1996.
Schwarzbaum, Lisa. - Film: "Movie Review: The Way She Is" (1996)". - Entertainment Weekly. - November 22, 1996.
Kempley, Rita. - Film: "Caution: Objects in 'Mirror' Older Than They Appear". - Washington Post. - November 15, 1996.
Howe, Desson. - Film: "Streisand Loves a 'Mirror'". - Washington Post. - November 15, 1996.
Elber, Lynn (December 20, 1996). "`ENGLISH PATIENT' GETS 7 GLOBE NOMINATIONS". Deseret News. Retrieved February 24, 2013.