The Mirror Has Two Faces is a 1996 American romantic comedy-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. Starring Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, George Segal, Mimi Rogers, Brenda Vaccaro, and Lauren Bacall, the story focuses on a shy, middle-aged professor who enters a romantic but non-physical relationship with an unlucky colleague. The film made its release on November 15, 1996 and grossed $41 million in the US. Streisand, Marvin Hamlisch, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, and Bryan Adams composed the film's theme song, "I Finally Found Someone". Streisand sang it on the soundtrack with Adams.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Rose Morgan (Streisand), a middle-aged English literature professor at Columbia University, shares a home with her vain, overbearing mother, Hannah (Bacall). While attending the wedding of her sister, Claire (Rogers), to Alex (Brosnan), she tells her best friend, Doris (Vaccaro), that she has reached the point where she knows she'll never get married. But she also ruminates on how wonderful it might feel to have a partner who really knows her.

Gregory Larkin (Bridges) is a Columbia Mathematics teacher who can't connect with students and loses perspective as soon as he is aroused by an attractive woman. Just a few moments after beginning a talk about his new book on the twin prime conjecture, his ex-girlfriend Candace (Macpherson) arrives. She flusters him so much that he has a panic attack and is unable to continue. While recovering, Gregory begs his best friend, Henry (Segal), not to let him go home with Candace, but leaves with her the second she offers. Back at his place, she goes to leave right after they've had sex. She admits that she's still with her new boyfriend but wanted to bolster her ego because he was cheating on her. When she leaves Gregory in a state of frustration and rejection, he decides to place a personals ad that reads, "Columbia University professor (male) seeks woman interested in common goals and companionship. Must have Ph.D. and be over thirty-five. Physical appearance not important!"

Soon he gets a response that Claire sent on behalf of Rose. That night he asks her out to dinner. They begin a relationship that is akin to dating, but without any physical intimacy beyond an occasional hug.

After three months, Gregory proposes marriage. He reinforces that their relationship will be built on common interest and caring, not sex, though he does agree to occasional sex provided Rose gives him enough warning.

Gregory and Rose marry in a court-house ceremony. After they marry, the relationship continues to grow and become more emotionally intimate, with hints of physical attraction.

While they're discussing his book, Rose asks if now is enough warning to tell him she'd like to have sex tonight. She tries to make the scene seductive, while he tries at first to keep it benign. They end up on the floor, passionately making out, until Gregory insists he doesn't want to do this and pulls away. He expresses disappointment in her, implying her behavior is a "female-manipulation" without acknowledging that he only stopped it because he got carried away. Hours later, while he's asleep, she sneaks out and goes home.

Rose decides that feeling beautiful is something she wants but that she's ignored those feelings. She changes her diet and starts a rigorous exercise regimen, lightens and cuts her hair, starts wearing curve-favoring clothing, and learns what cosmetics flatter her. Meanwhile, Gregory cuts his trip short and comes home. However, Rose tells him that she doesn't want to continue in their marriage and moves back in with her mother. One day Alex comes home to find Claire in bed with her masseuse, and they decide to separate. While she's comforting him, Alex asks Rose to have dinner with him, but she realizes that the fantasy of Alex is a lot better than the reality. Gregory starts lashing out at students due to the stress of his failing marriage. He ends up on Henry's couch as an emotional and a physical wreck, insisting that he loves Rose and he doesn't know what to do. Henry encourages him to fight for the relationship.

Not long before sunrise, Gregory goes to Rose's apartment. He tells her that he loves her and that what caused him to pull away that night was how desperately he wanted her. They both confess they're in love and when Gregory says he wants to be married to her again, she reminds him that he is still married to her. After the sun comes up, they catch a taxi home.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Release[edit | edit source]

The film grossed $41 million in the US.[2]

Reception[edit | edit source]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 55% of 33 surveyed critics the film a positive review; the average rating is 5.4/10.[3]

In her review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film's first hour "light and amusing" but added, then [Barbra Streisand] impresses her audience with good will 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".[4]

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".[5]

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".[6]

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".[7]

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".[8]

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".[9]

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".[10]

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 then-50-plus year career.

Awards and honors[edit | edit source]

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Lauren Bacall Nominated
Best Original Song I Finally Found Someone, by Barbra Streisand, Marvin Hamlisch, Robert John "Mutt" Lange & Bryan Adams Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical Barbra Streisand Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Lauren Bacall Won
Best Original Song I Finally Found Someone, by Barbra Streisand, Marvin Hamlisch, Robert John "Mutt" Lange & Bryan Adams Nominated
Best Original Score Marvin Hamlisch Nominated
BAFTA Best Supporting Actress Lauren Bacall Nominated
SAG Awards Best Supporting Actress Lauren Bacall Won
San Diego Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actress Lauren Bacall Won
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress Lauren Bacall Nominated

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
    • "I Finally Found Someone" – Nominated

Soundtrack[edit | edit source]

Original music for the film was composed by Marvin Hamlisch. It 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:

Tracks include "Try a Little Tenderness" by David Sanborn, "The Power Inside of Me" by Richard Marx, "The Apology / Nessun Dorma" by Luciano Pavarotti with London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, "I Finally Found Someone" by Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams, and "All of My Life" by Barbra Streisand.

Trailers[edit | edit source]


The Mirror Has Two Faces Trailer

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