Scene for scene The Main Event is probably the worst movie of Barbra Streisand’s career. This was the second time she starred opposite Ryan O’Neal. The first was 1972’s What’s Up, Doc?, a vastly superior movie. There are some laughs in this boxing comedy,
but Streisand’s Hillary Kramer makes no sense as a character and the ending is ridiculous.
Streisand is a business woman, known in the industry as “The Nose”,
running a perfume company. She is successful and intelligent. That is until her business manager embezzles all her money and runs off to South America. She is left with only one asset. A has-been boxer that her former business manager was using as a tax shelter.
Hillary’s response to this is, “Why couldn’t I own something that doesn’t eat?” Of course the has-been boxer must now return to the ring with Hillary as his manager.
Whenever Hillary gets near the ring her IQ drops by about 50 points and she begins acting like Judy Holliday. In one scene she is reading a ‘how to’ book on boxing to Kid Natural (O’Neal) while he is sparring in the ring. She reads
something about footwork and then says, “I think that means kick him.” This pretty much sums up the level of humor here. Clearly Streisand wanted her cake and to eat it to. She wanted to be a strong feminist protagonist (see the scene the morning
after Hillary and The Kid have sex) but also a sexy dumb broad that gets the laughs.
This movie screams 1979; from the opening aerobics scene with Barbra in her thigh
high legwarmers to the disco title song she sings over the end credits. And the ending is so stupid. The Kid is winning the big rematch against his archrival. Hillary is afraid that once the fight is over she will lose him, so what does she do? Yep, she throws
in the towel. Cue theme music.
The Main Event was the end of an era for Streisand. She ended the 1970’s as the top female box office star of the decade. This was her 11th movie in 11 years. In the 30 years since she has appeared
in only 6 movies. Oh the wasted possibilities!
The Main Event starts strong with Barbra making some self deprecating jokes about the size of her nose, and being frustrated with her secretary. O’Neal’s low class
girlfriend, “Does she always smell like a rose?” is worth a laugh.
Barbra, or the director, seem to think her best asset is her ass, as it gets put on display
several times. In one scene she bends over right in front of O’Neal and then acts surprised that he looks. Although not a beautiful woman, Streisand had a decent body here.
Speaking of her charms. The one scene that always bugs me was when she is forced to spend the night in a cabin full of men. Everyone is in their own beds, bundled up because it has snowed outside. However, the mere presence of Streisand is too much
for the men. One guy gets so horny by the idea of her being there that he says he can’t take it anymore and makes a move toward her bed, before being shoved outside by some other guys. If a little perfume is all it takes to make that guy uncontrollably
horny, he must have raped an awful lot of women in his time. Had Raquel Welch played the role in a negligee, I might have bought the joke, but as it is, it comes across more as an insult to men.
Another odd scene is the morning after they have sex. Streisand is in the sexual stereotypical male role of loving then leaving after sex, while O’Neal is in the stereotypical woman’s role of falling in love afterwards. It is not a lousy
scene, it just belongs in a different movie. If Eddie was a 17 year old having his first sexual experience, I would have bought it, as it is played here, it just seems like a 1970s feminist statement.