"The Mirror Has Two Faces"
Opened: November 15, 1996 | Rated: PG-13
"The Mirror Has Two Faces" is a romantic ugly duckling story for grown-ups. There's no Molly Ringwald here, no rock video montages. Instead this is a smart, inspiring movie in which the lovers have personal quirks, emotional baggage and no sex.
Barbra Streisand directed and stars in this loose remake of a French film about a couple who get married for friendship, not for love.
Jeff Bridges plays Gregory Larkin, a befuddled, left-brained calculus instructor at Columbia University who, after a disastrous, distracting relationship, takes out a personal ad seeking a platonic long-term companion.
Streisand is plain-Jane romantic literature professor Rose Morgan, who fits the bill but in her heart is hoping their friendship will become something more.
Rose is hounded by a nagging envy of her prettier sister (Mimi Rogers) and a constant barrage of intrusions from her busybody mother (Lauren Bacall in the kind of performance that wins Oscars for long-deserving actors).
Gregory is a nerd at heart, dumbfounded by beautiful women and seemingly incapable of holding an interesting conversation or keeping his class awake until he meets Rose.
Brilliantly written by Richard LaGravenese ("The Fisher King" and "The Bridges of Madison County" adaptation), the script strikes a balance between astute modern soliloquies, smart remarks and soul-searching silences.
The dialogue is poetic, especially in an early scene in which Rose is lecturing her class on the history of courtship.
Rose's family is consistently popping off at each other (when her sister suggests she get a perm, Rose responds "I tried that once. I looked like Shirley Temple on crack."), but when she's with Gregory they have long, explorative talks and begin to fall in love in spite of their best efforts not to.
Streisand definitely holds center court here and she gives a splendid, warm performance. "The Mirror Has Two Faces" also serves as evidence of her talent for directing. It is a wonderfully romantic and inspiring film.
Unfortunately, as a director she wasn't content with that and saturates the movie to a 60-piece orchestra in nearly every frame just to drive the point home.
After Gregory and Rose commit themselves to a platonic marriage, the relationship begins to sour and while her husband is lecturing in Europe, Rose re-invents herself. She joins a gym, cuts her hair, gets a makeover and when her husband comes home he's floored by her looks -- as she walks out the door.
With the tables turned the game begins anew, and despite the heart thrown into the leads by Streisand and Bridges (not to mention supporting players Pierce Brosnan, Brenda Vaccaro and George Segal), at about this point you'll start to look at your watch.
"The Mirror" is a funny, buoyant, adult romance -- bring Kleenex -- but a bit too long at just over two hours. The film starts taking on water in the last 30 minutes and has to be towed back to shore with a cliche closure.