Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom/USA, 1983. Ladbroke, Barwood Films, United Artists. Screenplay by Jack Rosenthal, Barbra Streisand, based on the story Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Cinematography by David Watkin. Produced by Rusty Lemorande, Barbra Streisand. Music by Michel Legrand. Production Design by Roy Walker. Costume Design by Judy Moorcroft. Film Editing by Terry Rawlings. Academy Awards 1983. Golden Globe Awards 1983. National Board of Review Awards 1983.
Barbra Streisand fans will no doubt have nothing but the highest praise for this film, while those who are picky about either her or musicals are advised to look elsewhere. She plays the titular Eastern European girl at the turn of the century (who is obviously older than a girl and has a Brooklyn accent, but why be picky?) who wants nothing more than to study the holy books of Judaism as her father does. Reading the Torah is not for girls according to custom, and so Yentl is kept in the kitchen until her father dies and she must learn to look out for herself. On a whim, she conquers her fear and runs away to a yeshiva, disguising herself as a boy named Anschel and becoming a student there. Should be a simple operation, except that her new best friend (Mandy Patinkin) becomes the object of her affection, while he has the hots for a beautiful young woman (Amy Irving) who would make the perfect wife. Apart from David Watkins’s gorgeous cinematography, the strongest artistic contribution to this film based on the story by Isaac Bashevis Singer is Michel Legrand’s beautiful music score, a rich collection of songs that tend to sound the same (and are all performed by Streisand as inner monologues!) Streisand is charismatic in the lead, and as director shows a sturdy hand that elicits terrific performances from her co-stars (especially a subtly brilliant Irving), but her approach is heavy-handed and little of Singer’s wryly brittle humour remains.