Eironweed

"Excellent"

Eironweed Review


Ironweed, based on the novel by William Kennedy (who is also credited with the script) tales the tale of Francis Phelan. Francis (Jack Nicholson) has a lot of problems. He's haunted by vivid hallucinations, constantly relives mistakes of the past, and is unable to find steady work. That sounds familiar, but Francis isn't a former Bush administration official, he's a former major league baseball player living in 1938 and a lot of his problems are brought on by his drinking (if his drinking is due to these problems is a subject up for debate). That's right, Francis is the stereotypical Depression-area drunk.

Since it stars a stereotypical Depression-era drunk you'd be tempted to think that the movie is a stereotypical treatment of the subject. Perhaps most directors would have played it that way, but Hector Babenco keeps things quite unusual. Instead of the familiar story most have come to expect from movies about prodigious amounts of alcohol ingestion: the fall, the bottom, then either redemption or death. There's none of the expected in Ironweed, no fall because we never see Francis when things were good, no bottom because he's already there, and redemption? Well that's a topic left to the viewer's imagination.

Instead of the standard format, Ironweed plays almost like series of vignettes. The running thread is one of heavy drinking, but that seems to be about the only thing holding the sometimes disparate storylines together. The most interesting of the side stories revolve around Francis' longtime girlfriend Helen Archer (Meryl Streep), but viewers will find plenty of other curious characters introduced along the way.

Ironweed is a long movie, clocking in at 2 hours and 23 minutes, and if you're wondering if loosely-tied together scraps of a story can keep a film interesting for that long the answer is that they can. For that you have to give a lot of credit to the actors. (Nicholson and Streep were both deservingly Oscar-nominated for their roles in Ironweed.) Give an actor a bottle as a prop and you can usually expect some serious over acting, the near universal interpretation of acting drunk seems to consist of talking loud, slurring words, and pratfalls. In the hands of Nicholson and Streep the temptation is avoided. When they're hammered you can tell, but you won't see Francis Phelan laying on the ground after tearing down a shower curtain and spouting off a witty one liner. When people are drunk in Ironweed (all the time) they are subdued and ashamed. They know what they're doing isn't healthy, but they are in a mad race to escape the real world and the inside track can be found at the bottom of a bottle.

The acting isn't the only high point in Ironweed, the cinematography feels just right and the sets look fantastic in a Depression-era, seedy sort of way. The character development is deftly done with even the minor characters having multiple dimensions to their personas. Ironweed, in total, is a very well crafted movie from almost any perspective, but for everything Ironweed gets right, it is still hard to shake the feeling that the movie is too disjointed to be great.

The DVD includes a photo gallery.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Keith Barish,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.