The 1970s, though not as revolutionary cinematically as the 1960s, still saw many changes in the manner of films that Hollywood produced. Musicals were on their way out, which fact couldn't have come at a worse time for Barbra Streisand. However, she had shown with The Owl and the Pussycat that she could be very bankable in a contemporary comedy. Up the Sandbox was the next step. Produced by Streisand's production company, Sandbox was a very personal creation for the star. It is arguably the only time that Streisand played a normal, ordinary, down-to-earth woman (albeit one with a rich fantasy life to which the audience is privy.) When Streisand's character is in the real world, there's precious little of the mannerisms, the concern with how well the actress photographs, or the worries about how the character will come across, and it reveals just how fine an actress Streisand can be when she puts her mind to it. Unfortunately, the film containing this understated performance is a mess, a confused muddle that can't seem to make up its mind whether to be a comedy or a drama and lacking the expertise to be an effective hyphenate. The fantasy sequences are frequently jarring and do not add enough pay-off for their inclusion. There's an insightful film hidden inside all of this, but the filmmakers have been unable to uncover it. Streisand learned her lesson from Sandbox's failure; though some of her subsequent films have indeed meant something personal to her, they have all featured the actress playing variations on the same character.
Up The Sandbox is a complex and difficult film, and it is ambiguous on many points, particularly on whether the protagonist Margaret Reynolds (Barbara Streisand) is a women's liberationist, a closet lesbian, or a masochist. Based on the novel by Anne Richardson Rolphe, it follows Margaret's attempts to tell her husband that she is pregnant with yet another child. The everyday events of her life are punctuated by numerous and complex fantasy sequences which reveal her fears and her desires. It is clear that she is afraid that she and her husband Paul (David Selby) are growing apart -- and that he may be having an affair. Despite the increasingly elaborate and frantic nature of her fantasies, her disclosure, when she finally makes it, has happy results.
All Movie Guide - Craig Butler