I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but when I woke up today, it was pitch black outside and there was a torrential downpour. Not exactly an ideal summer morning. It got me thinking about rainy day movies, those fantastic films that make you want to close the blinds, curl up on the couch with your dog and forget about whatever may be going on outdoors. On days like this, if I have no place to be, I don’t care how hard it’s raining as long as I have a hot cup of tea, my favorite blanket, and today’s Fab Flick Friday pick, 1968’s Funny Girl.
Even if you’ve never seen Funny Girl, chances are bits of it have seeped into your consciousness just by living in the world. The iconic opening line: “Hello, Gorgeous.” The songs that everybody knows: “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” You may feel like you know it already, but if you haven’t seen it, you really need to get on that. Immediately.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same title, Funny Girl is a fictionalized account of the life of singer and comedienne Fanny Brice. In her first movie role (an Oscar-winning performance), Barbra Streisand takes us on Fanny’s journey from a skinny-legged chorus girl from the Lower East Side who doesn’t quite fit in – “a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls” – to her celebrated status as Ziegfeld star. As her rise to fame is chronicled, so is her romance with the dashing gambler with the ruffled shirt, Nicky Arnstein (played by Dr. Zhivago himself, Omar Sharif.) From the moment Fanny meets “Nicky-Arnstein-Nicky-Arnstein-What-a-beautiful-beautiful-name”, you know the road is going to be a rocky one. He’s a ladies’ man. Much like Jordan Catalano, he doesn’t believe in plans. He comes and goes every few months, and on occasion, he’s been known to lose his shirt. When Fanny quits her job and risks her dream in order to chase him down on a riverboat in hopes that he’ll marry her, you kind of want to cringe, but then she tells you not to “rain on her parade,” and you can see how much these two seem to love each other, so you go with it and hope for the best. For two and a half hours, you become swept up in the romance and as invested in the relationship as Fanny is. For that reason, when the intensely emotional ending comes along – without giving away any spoilers – you are left with a scene and a rendition of “My Man” that will stay with you for a long time to come.
Funny Girl is more than a musical romance. It’s a story about a woman - a woman that many of us can relate to, for one reason or another. Whether you have “skinny legs” (or any other feature you may have at any time in your life felt insecure about), or rely on your sense of humor to make light of uncomfortable situations, or simply know what it’s like to have a dream you need to follow, even if the rest of the world thinks it’s ridiculous, there’s bound to be something in Fanny that speaks to a part of you. And if not, well, you’ll still enjoy it because the music is awesome, Barbra is brilliant, and Nicky Arnstein is just too freaking charming.
The most wonderful thing about Funny Girl is that Fanny Brice never loses sight or tries to change who she is. If she tried to blend in with the other nameless chorus girls, she would have remained just that. But by owning the uniqueness that makes Fanny Fanny – those legs, that sense of humor, that unmatched voice – she rises to the top, just by being herself.
Sometimes, it's pretty good to be a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls.