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Film / The Mirror Has Two Faces

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The Mirror Has Two Faces is a 1996 romantic comedy-drama film produced and directed by Barbra Streisand, who also stars opposite Jeff Bridges and the legendary Lauren Bacall. Mimi Rogers plays Rose's sister, Claire, and Pierce Brosnan plays her brother-in-law, Alex, for whom Rose once had feelings.

Columbia math professor Greg Larkin (Bridges) is tired of having his life ruined by sex, so he places an ad for an intelligent, like-minded individual to enter into a relationship not based on sexual attraction. Frumpy, but sweet and funny English Lit professor Rose Morgan (Streisand) is so insecure about her appearance that she cancels every date she has and spends every evening at home with her mother (Bacall).

When Claire answers Greg’s ad on her behalf, he sits in on one of her classes where she coincidentally gives a talk on love and sex in the media, and how they are used to manipulate viewers. Thinking that she would be receptive to his ideas about sex and relationships, he asks her out on a date, and the two begin a whirlwind platonic friendship. However, Rose does want romance and passion in her life, and eventually begins to fall for Greg who, unbeknownst to either of them, is also falling for Rose.

While not exactly a masterpiece of a romantic comedy, it's a fun little movie with a surprising amount of wit, and definitely a comfort film for geeky girls everywhere.

”The Mirror Has Two Faces” contains examples of:

  • Alone Among the Couples: Played with. Rose is with Greg, but they are surrounded by more amorous couples.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: At the end of the film, Greg just wants Rose to know that he loved her and he was attracted to her before her makeover, even though he thinks she’s with Alex now. He’s overjoyed to discover that this is not the case.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Alex and Claire, Alex adores her but she finds him annoying and even makes it clear.
  • Beautiful All Along: The whole point of the movie.
  • Betty and Veronica: In the beginning of the film, Rose is the Betty and Claire is the Veronica for Alex, both end up rejecting him; Rose herself winds up playing both roles, starting off as the Betty then becoming the Veronica for Greg, who realizes that he’s in love with the “old Rose” (Betty)
  • Big Eater: Rose loves to eat. Greg loves the fact that she does. This is in marked contrast to her mother Hannah (who is prideful of how she doesn't eat very much and chides Rose for her eating habits) and sister Claire (who mostly consumes soup and a side of fruit for lunch).
  • Brainless Beauty: The type of woman that Henry Fine (Greg's friend) often ends up dating; he is however, aware that such relationships don't last.
    (consoling Greg about Rose) I don't date these girls because they're well-read. I gave one of them a copy of Farewell to Arms. She thought it was a diet book.
  • Brainy Brunette: Rose, a professor is brown haired until her makeover.
  • Calling the Old Lady Out: Rose to Hannah after she announces her engagement; Rose calls Hannah out for being controlling and for her attitude that her "less attractive" daughter has found a man that wants her. Hannah later relents that it's true she was jealous.
  • Celibate Hero: Greg has found that his previous relationships have distracted him from completing his book, so he decides it would be better to become this.
  • Compliment Fishing: Rose’s mother, when Rose has Greg over for dinner
    Hannah: You’ll have to forgive me, I came home late and just… threw this on! God knows how I look…
    • But Greg simply nods and continues unfolding his napkin. He spends the whole evening very subtly shooting Hannah down while building Rose up.
  • Cool Teacher: Rose is this to a lot of students due to her sense of humor.
  • Courtly Love: Rose brings this up in her lecture.
  • Daddy's Girl: Rose, her late father adored her and she was the first baby he ever held; they even looked alike and shared personality traits.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: On their wedding night, Rose and Greg decide to watch a movie. Rose takes the cassette to the VCR, and Greg instructs her to “just stick it in”.
    • Even better, watch how he's holding the remote control!
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: A taxi rudely ditches Rose for a tarted up blonde and she dyes her hair blonde after her makeover and starts receiving more male attention.
  • Extreme Doormat: Rose, to Gregory's ideas, her Mother, and Claire; Alex and Roses's late father are this to their wives.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Rose sits in on one of Greg’s classes and stays back to give him a few pointers, which leads into one of these.
  • Fat Best Friend: Rose's friend Doris, unusually for this trope, she is less awkward with the opposite sex and much more self-assured.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Rose is a good cook and sets the table beautifully.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Rose and Claire. Rose is sweet, intellectual, generous, kind, good-humored, humorous, and dowdy while Claire is glamorous yet self-centered, bitchy, miserable, shallow, and unfaithful.
  • Golddigger: Claire, with a side of Single Woman Seeks Good Man.
    If he weren't gorgeous, rich and straight, I wouldn't even have bothered.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Hannah wears this color in her first, onscreen appearance in a rich-colored designer knock off ensemble and coat.
  • Has a Type: Gregory's ex-girlfriend was a flame-haired Elle MacPherson, he gets enticed by a redhaired actress for a phone sex line, and he has a student in his class who wants to lean into this trope with him.
  • Heel Realization: Hannah has this when she thinks about Rose's low self-esteem and states that parents never plan to hurt their children.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: When Greg tells Rose that he met her through an ad, he worries that she’ll be upset, but she responds by saying “Why, you picked *me*”. Later, after breaking up with him, Rose says “I really do thank you, Greg. You’re the first man who wanted to marry me, for any reason”.
    • Rose has felt that Alex didn't love her because she wasn't as babelike as Claire and when she gets together with him after her makeover, she figures he is very shallow and dim-witted, not good enough for her.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: Deconstructed. Rose spends the whole movie envying her mother and sister for being beautiful. After her makeover, she discovers that she doesn’t like being treated differently solely because of it. She also realizes that being “beautiful” actually takes a lot of time and effort and is ultimately more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Rose after her makeover. Attractive, yes. But is it really necessary to have nearly every man she encounters drooling over her? To the point where she needs to chastise her 20-something years younger students to stop ogling her? (In fairness, at least some of this may be due to the sheer surprise of She Cleans Up Nicely.)
    • There was also her Cool Teacher rep to be considered, a lot of her students really liked her and there is a scene where pre-makeover Rose is seen with Greg and a male student mouths "You can do better!"
  • Innocent Innuendo:
    Rose: Come on, don’t stop.
    Greg: What do you think, I’m a machine?
    Rose: Come on, come on, you’re doing great, keep it up.
    Greg: Ok, ready?
    • Turns out Greg is doing situps while Rose is holding his legs and encouraging him.
  • Jewish American Princess: Claire and Hannah fit this trope to a tee, with their It's All About Me attitude, demands, materialism, and more that love seemed to be withheld in their marriages. On the other hand, Claire isn't sexually repressed and is carrying on an affair with her masseuse and talks about her lesbian fantasies, same goes for Hannah who is shocked that Rose would enter a Sexless Marriage. It goes without saying that Rose doesn't fit this stereotype.
  • Jewish Mother: Hannah. She's very domineering of the over-35 Rose and criticizes her daughters' choices, like Claire getting married in the Catholic Church (albeit with a Rabbi close by the Priest).
  • Lady in Red: Claire. She often wears this color a lot and is Ms. Fanservice in-universe, she even flirts with Greg after he married her sister. When Alex sees post-makeover Rose, she is wearing a dark velvet dress of this shade.
    • The catty, nasally voiced Blonde who receives a taxi pickup instead of Rose is seen in a skin-tight, red velour number.
  • Left the Background Music On: During a romantic scene in a street, an operatic aria sung by a tenor is heard. Someone in an apartment above the street was playing a record of the music.
    • Also, as a nice little Easter Egg, if you look at the record cover, you'll see it says Puccini. In her lecture, Rose discusses an article she read once that said "When we fall in love, we hear Puccini in our heads."
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: Sweet and friendly Rose is the light to the bitchy and self-centered Claire's dark.
  • Little Black Dress: Black is a signature color for Rose, after her makeover she re-introduces herself in a sleek cocktail dress of this color that fits her body like a glove and later dumps Alex while in black shawls and slip.
  • Love Hurts: Before they met each other, Rose experienced this with Alex and Greg with Candice
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Invoked. Rose tells Greg that she wants “someone to go crazy, out of his mind for me.” Cue Greg, at the end of the film, in the wee hours of the morning, yelling up at Rose’s apartment from the streets, where Rose has a stop him from getting restrained by the doorman.
  • The Makeover: Takes a whole summer for Rose; she starts exercising, changing her diet from Snowballs to Carrot Sticks, changing her wardrobe, getting makeup tips, and bleaching her hair. This doesn't require removing the glasses she wears for her classes.
  • Meaningful Echo: After having sex with his ex-girlfriend at the beginning of the film, Greg asks if he can call her, and as she’s leaving, she says “What for?” When Rose breaks up with Greg after her makeover, the dialogue is repeated.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: A couple of Greg’s female students think he’s cute
  • Old Maid: Rose.
  • Parents as People: Hannah is a very witty woman with great style and beauty tips, but she often does put down Rose when she isn't bossing her daughters around. Hannah later tells Rose that "parents don't mean to hurt their children" and apologized for ever making her eldest daughter feel bad.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Rose, while clad in black a lot and not loving the pink bridesmaid dress she wears, loves to decorate her room and wear her nightwear in this color; ties into her sweet and romance loving personality. Claire wears a pink suit to Rose's wedding, more illustrating her physical assets, and even picks pink as her bridesmaid color.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: This is what Greg originally wants in his relationship with Rose.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: After she failed to get Greg to have sex with her and while he's cluelessly stating he forgives her for breaking their agreement, Rose is sobbing in the bathroom and when she sees the mirror, rather than smashing it, she covers it with towel she's sobbing with and continues sobbing.
  • Serial Spouse: Rose's sister, Claire, she has three husbands now.
  • Settle for Sibling: Of a sort. Rose once dated Alex, he then left her for Claire, then when Claire and he split, he goes back to Rose after her makeover. She wises up and figures that he is ridiculously shallow.
  • Sexless Marriage: Rose & Greg, initially.
  • Shout-Out: To Now, Voyager, another film about a middle-aged single woman with a domineering mother who achieves both romance and a trans-formative makeover.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes
  • That Came Out Wrong: On their wedding night,
    Greg: So, what would you like to do?
    Rose: Go to bed. (realizes what she just said) To sleep, I mean… in order to sleep. You go to the bed… for sleeping.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: When Claire and Rose lunch at the Bloomingdales cafeteria, Claire makes both of them have bowls of soup and fruit on the side for dessert; they barely touch their meals when Claire sees her husband Alex approaching, she then leaves the table and Rose (who has a crush on him and went out with him before he left her for Claire) leaves after he cluelessly asks her about Claire. Cue a confused Alex with two bowls of soup and fruit.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Rose often keeps a stash of snowballs in one of her drawers. She also eats salad just because she likes the dressing and loads her fork to create the “perfect bite”. After her makeover, she eats plain, raw carrots, which Greg finds tragic.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: Greg fell in love with Rose because of the common interests they shared, and admitted to his friend Harry that although she wasn’t conventionally attractive, he found her quite beautiful
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: It’s only after Rose tells Greg that she doesn’t want a passionless marriage and breaks up with him that Greg realizes that he was in love with her all along.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Particularly in a scene where Greg pulls a muscle in his lower back while exercising and Rose is massaging the affected area, there’s a moment where it looks like the two are about to kiss, then Greg abruptly decides he needs to floss.
  • White Sheep: Rose is this compared with her vain and competitive mother and sister.
  • Wish-Fulfillment: Oh sweet Jesus yes. Quite good at it, too.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Averted. Also averted in-movie, in that Rose, an English professor, grasps the concept of twin primes quite easily. Also averted with Greg – a Math professor and a writer.
    • Although his book is about Math.
  • Your Television Hates You: Greg, after getting dumped by his beautiful but shallow and bitchy ex-girlfriend, views a nature documentary about sexual relations between praying mantises, an ad for Obsession perfume, and a phone sex ad.