Up the Sandbox Reviews
This is achieved by often focusing on the most outlandish fantasies and applying an almost passive construction of scenes which appear to be real.
Much like the novel upon which the film was based, there is a strong and often confused political stand regarding Feminism of the late 1960's and early 1970's. The main character is bored and constantly trying to determine where she stands in a world filled with revolution (both political and sexual) And she feeling more and more confused by a new level of cultural pressures on the identities of women. With the gift of hindsight, the subject and experimentation of the movie makes it seem like a very odd career choice for Streisand who actually produced it.
I gather that the film was met mixed results with critics and a shared confusion of Streisand fans at the time. It was her first commercial flop. Art House audiences didn't trust Pauline Kael's fairly strong review to "chance" it with a Streisand movie.
Over the decades this movie has started to gain the attention of number of Film Theory and Film Historians. It seems to potentially posed for critical re-evaluation.
If nothing else, Up The Sandbox is a great snapshot of an woman caught in the unique Cultural Web that was spun out of the 1960's. The film actually feels more French than American. When humor is presented it is often in a purposely silly way while the more important observations are tend to be articulated in a surprisingly nuanced way.
The idea of Barbra Streisand playing for a silly laugh is not challenging, but a nuanced Streisand seems like an impossible idea. Streisand delivers a shockingly realistic and low-key performance. While she retains a few of her mannerisms, she still manages to form a character far from the ideas associated with her iconic image which was already fairly formed in 1972. This is not the iconic comedic performance one expects to see. Believe it or not Streisand succeeds at playing a believable intelligent housewife, mother, daughter and woman trying to sort it out.
The film also has an odd assortment of talented actors. Most of the minor supporting roles are played by soon to become iconic television actors. Much of TV's The Jeffersons, Electric Company and other soon-to-be-famous 1970's TV shows are present. Most notably, the film features Anne Ramsey and was Stockard Channing's first film role.
The film also speaks to the skill of Irvin Kershner who never really gained the respect he deserved during his lifetime. He was very much apart of the whole new American filmmaking era of Altman, Ashby and Arthur Penn. Instead his mostly remembered as being the film director who found himself at odds with George Lucas as he attempted to form the sequel to Star Wars into something with a bit more depth as faced the task of Return of the Jedi.
Additionally, Gordon Willis provided his brilliance as the cinematographer for Up The Sandbox.
A sadly lost, forgotten and under-appreciated cinematic curiosity. If you can find a way, check it out. Though chances are you will have the opportunity in the not too distant future.
Watching it again I really loved the cinematography, but the movie over all was just ok. The documentary feel of the photography complements the acting in a production that heavily emphasized improvisation, as well as the running theme of the film, which was this married with children womanâ??s fantasy life. As such its one of those films were the parts are greater then the whole.
Although it falls far short of the film it could have been, as a film it is still critically underrated. One of the reasons for this is that Streisand was at the time at the height of her pop icon status. Because she was its star it is considered a failed pop movie, whereas if it had starred Gena Rowlands it would be remember as a well-crafted art film. And if you didnâ??t change a single frame of film made it from France, or inserted John Cassevettes name, instead of Irvin Kershner, they would be writing books on what a work of genius this was.
Streisand's portrayal of Margaret is very low key, leaving out much of the bravado and distinct acting style she is known for. This works to the film's advantage as it enables the viewer to see her character and not "Barbra Streisand playing a character". The musical score is also low key, but mellow and enjoyable. A vocal version of the ending theme, "If I Close My Eyes", was recorded by Streisand for use over the credits, but ultimately not used at her request. Barbra wanted the viewers to come away still focused on the themes and messages in the movie and not her vocal performance. The song was instead released as a promotional single. The song was later included on her "Just for the Record..." 3CD boxset.
While a good film, its biggest flaw is the fantasy sequences, which are used to juxtapose Margaret's internal struggles with her identity as a woman in modern society and dissatisfaction with her life choices to that of her daily life and role as a mother. These sequences, which are bizarre and outlandish, are not executed well in terms of their initial execution. The transition between fantasy and reality is so subtle that the viewer is thrown for a loop when snapped back into reality, because they didn't realize they'd strayed into fantasy to begin with. This was also a problem in the book, as every other chapter was a fantasy sequence but this was not stated anywhere. As a reader you were left to figure out the pattern on your own, which proved more difficult than it sounds as many of the fantasies were closely in line with Margaret's daily activities.
By today's standards the film is very dated, but it makes for a good intellectual commentary about the plight of women in the changing social climate of the early 1970's. I definitely recommend this film, but advise that you go into it with no expectations and a very open mind knowing that it might take a few viewings to really get out of it the messages that are trying to be conveyed.