Tag Archives: Barbra Streisand

Throwback Thursday: Meet the Fockers (2004)

Meeting one’s potential or future in-laws can be a harrowing experience. You want to be yourself, but you also want to prove that you are the right person for their child.

The 2004 film, Meet the Fockers is the sequel to Meet the Parents (2000). Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are engaged. Now that they have cleared the hurdle of her parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner), the next step is his parents. Compared to the straight laced, middle of the road Byrnes, Bernie and Rozalin Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) are very out there. Can these two very different set of parents find a middle ground and ensure that their children become Mr. and Mrs.?

Like it’s predecessor, this film is a satire. The comedy comes from the fact that the Fockers are a complete 180 from the Byrnes. My problem is that while it is funny, it relies a little too heavily on Jewish stereotypes when it comes to Hoffman’s and Streisand’s characters. While the cast is top notch, the script does not match the on-screen talent.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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The Nanny Character Review: Fran Fine

I apologize for the delay in the publication of the new character review posts. Life, as it does, got in the way last week.

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Nanny. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When it comes to ethnic or racial stereotypes, there is line that can be easily crossed into a gross misrepresentation of the culture that person represents. However, it can also be subverted to reveal the human being who exceeds the image they represent.

At first glance, Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) is your typical Jewish woman from New York City. She has a thick Queens accent, is obsessed with finding a husband and adores Barbra Streisand. When her fiancé dumps her, she has no choice but to go back to selling cosmetics door to door. One of the doors she knocks on is Maxwell Sheffield’s (Charles Shaughnessy). Maxwell is a Broadway producer and a widower with three growing children. Though she is a square peg in a round hole, Maxwell hires Fran to be his children’s nanny. Over the years, Fran becomes much more than the hired help. She is a mother figure to her charges and encourages them to see beyond the limited reaches of their Park Avenue mansion.

Fran brings much more than herself into the WASP-y Sheffield household. She brings her entire family. Her mother Sylvia (Renee Taylor) is preoccupied with the fact that her younger daughter is both single and childless. She is also known to nosh wherever and whenever she can. Fran’s best friend Val Toriello (Rachel Chagall) is not the brightest bulb in the box. Sylvia’s mother and Fran’s grandmother Yetta Rosenberg (Ann Morgan Guilbert) is sometimes senile and sometimes not senile.

The relationship between Fran and Maxwell is not exactly the most professional relationship between employer an employee. There is a palpable chemistry between them, resulting in a will they or won’t they question that hangs over the characters for five years. When they finally get together, it is to the delight of Maxwell’s children (whose relationship with Fran is of a pseudo-parental/child nature) and the butler Niles (Daniel Davis). It is only C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane), who looks upon the relationship with disdain. Her numerous attempts to create romantic sparks with Maxwell, her business partner have never succeeded.

To sum it up: Though Fran checks all of the boxes when it comes the stereotype of a Jewish woman, she is more than a list of expected traits and interests. She is warm, adventurous and when she loves, she loves completely.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, New York City, Television

Welcome to the Tribe, Tiffany Haddish

When one thinks of a Jewish woman, the image that is conjured is usually that of Barbra Streisand or Fran Drescher.

One does not think of Tiffany Haddish.

A few weeks ago, Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah premiered on Netflix.

The daughter of an African-American mother and an Ethiopian Jewish father, Haddish celebrated her fortieth birthday and embraced her father’s Judaism earlier this month.

I love that she is Jewish and she embraced her Judaism. I love that she reminds audiences that not all Jews look and/or sound like Barbra Streisand or Fran Drescher. We come from all parts of the world and speak as many languages are there are to speak. Some of us have lighter skin, some of us have darker skin.

Either way, we are all Jews and Tiffany Haddish is one of us.

Welcome to the tribe, Tiffany Haddish.

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A Star Is Born Movie Review

For every performer that succeeds in Hollywood, there are many who stand on the cusp of success, but never achieve it.

In the new movie, A Star Is Born, Jack (Bradley Cooper) is a rock star with a capital R. He also has issues with drinking and drug addictions. In a drag bar after a show, Jack meets Ally (Lady Gaga). Ally can sing like nobody’s business, but has yet to even get close to a career as a musician. She has to earn her living in a restaurant while singing in a drag bar.

Jack persuades Ally to sing at one of his concerts. Soon, their personal relationship blooms as quickly as Ally’s career. But while Ally is finally seeing her dream become a reality, she is dealing with the breakdown of her relationship and Jack’s issues getting the best of him.

Every word of praise that has been uttered for this film is entirely earned. As star, director and co-screenwriter, Bradley Cooper throws himself into the film. Unlike other actors who have thought themselves to be able to direct and star in a film, Cooper is able to do so while creating a realistic portrait of a musician who is letting his demons overshadow his professional achievements.  For her part, Lady Gaga is an exception actress. It’s one thing to play a character in a reboot, its another thing to play character in a film that has been rebooted twice since the original film made it’s debut. Stepping into the shoes of Janet Gaynor (1937), Judy Garland (1954) and Barbra Streisand (1976), Lady Gaga plays the role of Ally as if she was born to do so.

I absolutely recommend it. I would not be surprised if A Star Is Born does well come award season.

A Star Is Born is presently in theaters. 

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Flashback Friday- Yentl (1983)

It has been a common practice for centuries that boys receive extensive educations when girls receive education that can be described as minimal.

But that does mean that women have not dreamed and found creative ways to become educated.

In Yentl (1983),  Yentl (Barbra Streisand) is a Jewish girl who is yearning for an education. Based on the short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, titled “Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy”, Yentl will do anything for education, including cross dressing. After her widower Rabbi father who previously forbade his daughter from learning the Talmud passes way, Yentl sheds the clothes of a woman, changes her name to Anshel and pretends to be a man. The experience is educational well beyond the classroom. Yentl likes Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), while Hadass (Amy Irving) who is engaged to Avigdor likes Anshel, not knowing that Yentl is not a he.

This movie is very interesting.  While it remains true to the original story, the odd combination of traditional Jewish Eastern European storytelling with Twelfth Night twist makes it stand out.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Feminism, Flashback Friday, History, Movie Review, Movies, William Shakespeare