It is really hard for Barbra Streisand to escape the genre of UGH movies. She makes so many that are UGH worthy. She honestly knows no boundaries when it comes to film. She will push you to the limit and leave you there. Almost like she just forgot about you because she is too busy worrying about her special "Barbra" lighting or making sure she gets a good shot of leg in a frame. She ups the ante for the 1987 drama NUTS. She is Mad! But is she angry or just plain....nuts? You get to decide! I knew my answer the minute the credits rolled. But I won't sway your decision.
The movie starts off promisingly enough. Babs is in prison and that is always a good thing. Keep her away from the public. She is surrounded by streetwalkers and is fitted in a beautiful prison robe and laugh out loud flip flops. She looks Nuts from the get go and as the camera pans away, we get a glimpse of the most beautifully lit jail cell. All the other lady prisoners look well worn and look like they belong there, but not Babs. She has a warm pre- Prince of Tides glow about her. All soft and fuzzy. Her hair is kinda kinky and moussed up messy. A good look. She is shipped away into the courtroom to plead her case. And it's a doozy. She is being convicted of manslaughter, but this is no ordinary hearing! It first must be determined if she is competent enough to stand trial or if she is certifiable NUTS! And after she has some flashbacks of herself cutting her hair off, then decks her lawyer, the court realizes they have a major problem on their hands. Luckily, all the ho's that are waiting sentencing cheer her on as she is dragged out of the courtroom screaming! In one last ditch effort to make a statement, she grabs ahold of the flag positioned in the corner and rips it to the ground. JUSTICE IS SERVED!
Babs finds herself back in the holding pin and gets assigned a new lawyer. Richard Dreyfuss in full on Were-Lawyer mode proceeds to determine if Babs is nuts or just annoying. She smiles, laughs at the most inappropriate moments and flashes her Woo-Hoo a whole half decade before Sharon Stone even thought about it. Thankfully, her back is to us when it happens, but the reaction shot of Dreyfuss is quality goods. That is called method acting. Their banter ranges from playish to snooze worthy, but there is something that just keeps you interested just a little. The dialogue spoken by any other actor would be enough to stop watching, but seeing Babs say things like, " No. I just go by the seat of my pants" (YUCK!) and "You know what I use this dress for? For the ones who want to sit on Mommy's lap" ( DOUBLE YUCK!!) makes you want to hang onto every word she utters. The mere fact that Dreyfuss tells everyone that she is overtly sexual (TRIPLE YUCK!!!) is a good clue into the psyche of Babs. She also is known to "Give Good Head" (YUCK SQUARED!!!!).
Dreyfuss tries his darnest to get Babs under control, but with so much scenery to chew apart, he is no match for her appetite.
The state drags in her parents, played by Maureen Stapleton and Karl Malden, and they set out to crucify their daughter for no real reason at all....or so it seems. Skeletons come blazing out of the closet and rattle their bones at anyone who will listen. It seems that Pops use to slide a twenty under the door of young Bab's room and get a little somethin' somethin' for his troubles.
Stapleton, seen in one flashback, seems to know what is going on, but the drink in her hand calls her name. GULP away all the guilt.
Into another flashback, we see Babs cross her beautiful legs and count some Benjamin's. The camera pans away and slowly turns to her john and it is fucking Leslie Nielsen in black bikini briefs. Babs is ready to move on to her next trick, but Nielsen enjoyed that Woo-Hoo so much, he wants seconds. When Babs blows him off, it turns ugly. We get to see a half dressed Babs run around her zillion dollar upper Manhattan condo (hookin' ain't easy, but it pays the bills!) and fight off Nielsen. It all ends with a dead dude in her bathroom and her arrest. So, the big question is... She is NUTS?
Doctors swear she is. Her parents want her to be and Dreyfuss isn't too sure. The only person that knows is Babs. Will she get aways with murder? Will she get sent to the loony bin? I can't disclose that information, but when she screams, "I won't be NUTS for you! I won't be NUTS for anybody!", we know she is not happy!!
Interestingly, NUTS is based off of an play and it shows within the film. The filmmaker didn't really open it up, besides the flashy flashbacks. And it is clear that Babs had a major hand in directing the film. Just helpful hints and suggestions. It stinks of Oscar and Babs didn't get nominated. It happens. Is Babs too old to play the role of a hooker who kills? You decide.
Of note, Karl Malden and Eli Wallach, the stars of BABY DOLL, reunite for NUTS. And after dealing with Baby Doll herself, they know NUTS when they see it.