Ironweed (1987)


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Movie Info

Based on the William Kennedy novel of the same name Ironweed is set in the waning years of the Depression. Jack Nicholson plays Francis Phelan, a washed-up ballplayer (a onetime infielder for the Washington Senators) who deserted his family back in the 1910s when he accidentally killed his infant son by dropping him. Since that time, Phelan has been a shabby barfly, living from drink to drink; he spends his days palling around with Rudy (Tom Waits), with whom he works a motley series of jobs in exchange for a place to lay his head and an occasional jug of wine. Wandering into his hometown of Albany, New York, Phelan blearily seeks out his girlfriend and erstwhile drinking companion of nine years, Helen Archer (Meryl Streep), who has begun prostituting herself for drink and lodging. The two derelicts touch base in a mission managed by minister James Gammon, and later in Fred Gwynne's squalid gin mill. Over the next few days, Phelan takes a few minor jobs to support his habit, while his mind wavers between past and present. Eventually, a chance for a reconciliation with his wife (Carroll Baker) emerges. Directed by Hector Babenco following his enormous success with Kiss of the Spider Woman , Ironweed netted Oscar nominations for Nicholson and Streep.

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Critic Reviews for Ironweed

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (8)

Watching "Ironweed" is like having a large, metal object lodged in your brain for 2 1/2 hours. It hurts.

Dec 19, 2011 | Full Review…

The film becomes becalmed and confusing; it lacks the novel's great unwavering trajectory.

Dec 19, 2011 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Unrelentingly bleak, Ironweed is a film without an audience and no reason for being except its own self-importance.

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…
Top Critic

At last, a real part for Nicholson to sink his teeth into.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Despite its nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time, its superstar cast and its $23 million budget, Mr. Babenco's ''Ironweed'' is skeletal, a mere outline of Mr. Kennedy's far more resonant book.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/5

Comes about as close to being an unmitigated waste of talent as any movie in recent memory.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Ironweed

It looks like it was made by anyone, since Babenco directs it without any passion or conviction and wastes Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep in a tiring narrative that becomes so unnecessarily long with a lot of scenes that could have been cut without any damage to the story.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Nicholson and Streep simply just can't do it. What a tragedy for the finest actors of their generation. The script writer is at fault as this film bobs and weaves out of the control of its leads.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Brilliantly acted but profundly sad. A sense of gloom hangs heavily over the entire film.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

William Kennedy's adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel turns into a showcase for Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, both playing skid-row alcoholics. Director Hector Babenco superbly captures the grinding, hand-to-mouth dreariness of this Depression era tale, which traces the relationship of opportunity and convenience between the two leads.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

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