Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Carroll Baker, Michael O'Keefe, Diane Venora, Fred Gwynne, Margaret Whitton, Tom Waits, Nathan Lane, James Gammon, Laura Esterman, Joe Grifasi, Hy Anzell, Ted Levine
Written by: William Kennedy, based on his novel
Directed by: Hector Babenco
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 143
Date: 12/18/1987

Ironweed (1987)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

On the Bum

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

William Kennedy adapted his own Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and the acclaimed Brazilian director Hector Babenco (Pixote, Kiss of the Spider Woman) brought Ironweed to the screen in 1987.

It's very long, very serious, very dreary and has not aged well, though stars Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep deliver master class performances in the two lead roles. Babenco even appears to slow down the movie to give them time and space to do their thing. Nicholson plays Francis Phelan, a depression-era drifter who left home after his drinking caused a fatal accident. He spends his time with a burned-out singer, Helen (Streep), works some odd jobs, sees ghosts, and eventually tries to return home. Tom Waits is excellent as a cancer-ridden bum.

Both Nicholson and Streep earned Oscar nominations, though it should be mentioned that Nicholson was better, and a lot more fun, in The Witches of Eastwick earlier that same year.

Olive Films has given the film a 2013 Blu-ray release, with no extras.

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