Yentl (1983)

I added Yentl on my watchlist ages ago when I decided to watch more musicals but I kept putting it off because of its length. Also, the title didn't really appeal to me and make the film sound kind of boring (does that even make sense?). And I was right. 

Set in 1940 Eastern Europe, the film follows a young Jewish woman, Yentl (Barbra Streisand), who lives with her widowed father, Reb Mendel (Nehemiah Persoff). Rather than becoming a devoted wife, Yentl would like to study but it is prohibited by her religion. When her father dies, she leaves her village disguised as a young man so that she could gain admission to a Jewish religious school. Her life gets even more complicated when she falls in love with Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), one of her colleagues, who in turn is engaged to a devoted young woman, Hadass (Amy Irving). 

The plot is fairly original and it's also quite interesting at first, but it eventually becomes utterly ridiculous as nobody figures out Yentl is actually a woman, especially considering how much feminine makeup Barbra Streisand has on her face --Yentl either is a woman dressed as a man or a man who likes to wear makeup, and I'm not sure which one would have caused more outrage. And it gets a little bit boring as well as it turns into a not-so-interesting love triangle type of story.

Which is a real shame because this was a story that had a lot of potential in terms of gender equality as the film could have been used to highlight how many silly restrictions are placed on women. The theme is there, the problem is that it isn't as developed as it should have. The filmmakers preferred to focus on the love triangle rather than such an important topic. 

On the other hand, there are the characters. They are quite complex, with well-rounded personalities and well-defined psychology, and they are also compelling which kind of makes up for the partially boring story. 

MGM/UA Entertainment Company, Twilight Time

The acting is pretty good too. While she was too old to play Yentl --the character is supposed to be 18, she was 40 when the film was made--, Barbra Streisand is very charming and engaging and she keeps you glued to the screen. Her singing, however, is the talent that truly stands out here. Mandy Patinkin also gives a great performance as Avigdor, the object of Yentl's affections. Amy Irving, on the other hand, was not so good as Hadass. She looks good but she is also dull and doesn't display a lot of emotions so that Oscar nomination, for me, was totally undeserved. 

At last, there are the songs. Maybe it's because I don't love musicals, but Yentl would have worked better without the songs. They add absolutely nothing and most of them are forgettable --actually, Papa Can You Hear Me is the only memorable one-- and they are just an excuse for Streisand to show off her singing abilities. 


  1. "She was too old to play Yentl". I never saw the film but then again, I'm not a fan of Barbra though I did like The Prince of Tides which she also directed and starred in.

    1. It's true. They did a pretty good job in the makeup department to kind of fix that though.

  2. Bless you for getting through that hugely boring film. I tried more than once but I just couldn't get through it and found it rather ridiculous. I also hate that song..Papa Can you hear me? Ugh..