Yentl (Streisand) is a young woman who wants nothing more than to study the Talmud, something forbidden to women. When her father dies, she cuts off her hair and convinces a Jewish school that she is a man so she can satisfy her hunger for knowledge. Things get complicated, however, when she becomes close to fellow student Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), eventually falling in love with him, although she can not reveal her true self as she would then be expelled. Avigdor is in love with Hadass (Amy Irving), but religious law forbids him from marrying her.
Granted, this flick is not everyone's cup of tea, and many of my Flixster friends have avoided to watch it. Yet, looking at the other side of a coin, this story of a woman who yearns to study, who lives in a culture that says study is only for men then disguises herself as a man in order to get that education is a story of a strong woman who breaks the gender roles of her time, and a tangled love story. What was typically the male role has been blurred and practically obliterated as well as captures the essence of the Jewish woman's eternal struggle. It describes a woman's search for freedom and her discovery not only of love but of herself. My dear Barbra captures the character beautifully, the songs and the expression in her eyes and voice displaying clearly the feelings of a woman struggling for knowledge and love but torn between her desire to learn and the tradition of her religion.
As expected, the music and songs in Yentl received four Academy Award nominations, including two Best Songs. While David Watkin's photography is evocatively poetic, the film's pacing is overly reverential. Still, Streisand's voice very much remains her trademark.