There are only two Joel McCreas, and Jeff Bridges is one of them.
No one does effortlessly charming like Bridges, who plays a doofussy, romance-phobic professor in “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” Bridges stammers, pitches his voice high (you have to be a dog to hear some of his lines) and adopts McCrea’s gangly body language. Simply put, you will love him.
“The Mirror Has Two Faces” is not so simple. It’s kind of dumb, and it doesn’t come close to saying whatever it wants to say about beauty and vanity, but I like it anyway. Barbra Streisand produces, stars and directs (she even composed some of the music; the woman has four credits). She also pilfers key story points from her own life: the girl who thinks she’s ugly with the mother who withholds her affection and the father who loves her best, but who dies young.
About half of the movie is the kind of breezy comedy with smart characters and snappy dialogue we don’t often get. Streisand and Bridges are swell together - they both have great timing - and Streisand the director shows remarkable restraint (which is to say, there isn’t one close-up of her fingernails). She cedes the screen to a crew of lively supporting characters: Mimi Rogers as her cranky but beautiful sister (Hello, gorgeous!), Lauren Bacall as her domineering but beautiful mother and Pierce Brosnan as her dim but beautiful brother-in-law.
I guess that stuff is the first face of the mirror. The second face is Streisand getting serious about the beauty myth. Her character, a literature professor who makes not one literary reference in the entire movie, undergoes a makeover in an attempt to win Bridges’ love.
Problem No. 1: You won’t have noticed that Streisand was supposed to be fat and unattractive at the beginning of the movie, because she’s not padded and because, although she constantly talks about never wearing makeup, the telltale glint of lip gloss keeps calling her a liar.
Problem No. 2: She looks better before - as a frump - than after, when she bleaches the heck out of her hair and wears ugly pastels.
Problem No. 3: With the flattering lighting Streisand has ordered up, she looks about 30, Bacall looks about 50, and Madame Curie would look like a prom queen.
Naomi Wolf certainly isn’t going to be pleased with this stuff. “The Mirror Has Two Faces” wants to tell us not to settle for second best in love, but what it really seems to be saying is that if we’d all wear push-up bras and press-on nails and come-on pumps, we could be just as beautiful as Barbra Barbra Barbra.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES” Location: East Sprague, Lyons and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Barbra Streisand, starring Streisand, Jeff Bridges, Lauren Bacall Running time: 2:06 Rating: PG-13