The Southern Way
Following his sister's latest attempt to take her own life, Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte - Cape Fear) is asked by his mother to head to New York to work with his twin sister's psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand - Funny Lady) in finding what causes his sister to try and kill herself. With problems of his own including a marriage on the ropes Tom is reluctant to leave especially as he is a southern boy who is not keen on city life but still ends up going. Reluctant is exactly how Tom feels when Susan asks him to tell her about his childhood, something which Tom has worked hard to block out due to his parent's dysfunctional marriage. But as Tom spends time with Susan he begins to realise that she suffers from similar life issues which he does and it brings them close together.
I've read plenty about Barbra Streisand, how some have found her hard to work with, how as an actress she could dominate a movie but I will say one thing, when she is on the money she is on the money. What I mean by that is "The Prince of Tides" a movie which is rich in everything; characters, depth, charm, emotion, humour and beautiful cinematography. It is the complete package and Streisand is the movie's driving force as she not only appears in it but also directed and produced it. Although whilst Streisand is the driving force of the movie it is Nick Nolte's performance which makes the movie.
Now the synopsis above gives a brief outline of the movie but it is a movie full of depth which is one of the reasons why it is complete. We have Tom's background, his childhood which has made him protective of his past, resorting to a smile and a laugh when dealing with anything which challenges him be it a pushy woman or an argument. But we also have Tom's present, his tolerance of his pushy mother and his dysfunctional marriage where he reaches for a beer to deal with his troubles. But then we also have Susan and her own marital problems with her husband the concert violinist and perfectionist.
Now in truth this makes "The Prince of Tides" more of a character driven drama than an event driven drama and this is where it soars above mediocrity. Nick Nolte delivers his finest performance as Tom, a character who is humorous but can snap into rage in a split second, who deals with trauma with a diverting laugh and who is basically a lot more complex than he first appears. Nolte makes Tom fun but interesting and a character that draws us in to his world and his troubles. But Streisand is on just as good form as Susan, warm but business like and again draws us into her character. The knock on effect of this is that we have two characters who both interest and entertain us and that really draws us in to their lives especially when they are in a scene together.
But whilst Nolte and Streisand are the heartbeat of "The Prince of Tides" it is full of great performances which fill it out, giving it drama, emotion and humour. Brad Sullivan as Tom's father Henry is vile but comical with it especially in a scene involving dog food, whilst Blythe Danner is impressive as Tom's straying wife. I could go on as there is also Kate Nelligan and George Carlin all of which add variety to the story allowing it to switch from drama to humour and back again all with a single scene without it feeling wrong.
There is also the small subject of look and the opening scenes of "The Prince of Tides" will either make you switch off or sit back with the popcorn as they are beautifully crafted scenes of a sunlit south, the sun sparkling on the rippling sea. It is in some ways too perfect, too controlled yet it is visually beautiful and that extends right through out the move be it scenes in Susan's wood panelled office to their chats in the park.
What this all boils down to is that "The Princes Tide" is the complete package with depth, humour, emotion and drama. But its strength is in the characters and the performances which are stunning, as stunning as the movies look.