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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Is Yentl the Worst Movie I’ve Ever Seen?

I love Streisand. I love her voice, her acting, her ambition. I’ve had a crush on her forever, this hypnotic woman from Brooklyn.

And I love she pushed for her movie Yentl, starred in it, directed it. Her ideas were creative including the absolutely bold choice of singing Yentl’s thoughts. Some scenes are intercut with Yentl speaking, other characters speaking, and Yentl think/singing.

The result is a type of Broadway Beat Jazz. The weaving of dialogue and singing comment is fascinating. And the icing on the cake is every now and then Streisand just starts full-out singing and we move into musical mode.

Does this work? Absolutely not. It’s a disaster.

A perfect disaster because we have Streisand, Mandy Patinkin, and a young Amy Irving. It’s brave. And interesting. But it misses the mark by a mile. It’s actually laughable in places. I’m not sure what was going on when they made this. Forward thinking, a story of identity and gender and oppression of women by religion. I so wish it had worked.

Yentl has a place in movie history, yes it does. A story of exploration of gender roles, identity, and the pursuit of knowledge and freedom. The original play "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy" by Isaac Bashevis Singer, captured the spirit of Yentl's journey—a relentless quest for knowledge in a world that seeks to limit her because of her gender. Pretty modern for a movie made 50-years ago.

Yentl's story is a powerful commentary on the courage it takes to defy societal norms and pursue one's true self and aspirations. It’s easy to see why Streisand wanted to shoot this film. It's a movie star turn, a diva's delight. Some of her shots are beautiful. But in the end, the film is unfocused and fails to connect emotionally.

I'm not actually passing harsh judgement. How can I? I've made more than my fair share of creative messterpieces. Creativity is a dangerous business and by all account, Striesand would not be denied when she was making the movie. And honestly, I feel in some ways I'm honoring the movie by naming it The Worst.

There’s a subtlety in my mind to the Worst Film I’ve ever seen. It can’t be a bad film. Or a hack film.  Yentl has merit. And it is in those merits that the misses are set in such striking relief. Yentl is epic in its glorious mess. And in many ways unforgettable.


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