The Prince of Tides Reviews
Romantic drama films are ones which are difficult for me to be pleased by, and since The Prince of Tides is a very slow moving film it is difficult when it comes to grasping me. It had more potential however because it tied the romantic tale into one which also served as an exploration of its main character. However, I found that The Prince of Tides walked an unsteady line between being an exploration of the Protagonist Tom Wingo and the relationship that develops between him and psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein. Both story elements seemed rather melodramatic in their own ways, and melodrama is certainly not a more favoured form of drama for me. To add to that, other subplots came into the story as it progressed with its main two narrative focuses such as the developing relationship between Tom Wingo and Susan Lowenstein's son Bernard Woodruff as well as touching upon who she is. There are a few too many things that The Prince of Tides attempts to focus on, and while many of its elements are interesting thanks to a firm script and strong characters, the melodrama in the material simply did not appeal to me. I liked The Prince of Tides as a study of Tom Wingo, but as a romantic drama it came up short for me.
I never read the source novel The Prince of Tides, so I can't say for sure how much of a good adaptation the film is. However, one of the most central complaints from fans of the novel is that it sacrifices a lot of the flashbacks that the novel mentioned. Some of the most effective moments in the film adaptation are the flashbacks because they seem genuinely dramatic. When the characters talk about them instead of flashing back to them, things get melodramatic because the situations are talked out instead of being depicted on screen. If there were too many flashbacks then the structure of the film would be tedious, but in the film adaptation there proves to be too little. These scenes prove the dramatic potential of The Prince of Tides, and if more scenes took this kind of approach instead of blankly having its actors converse with no foreseeable end in sight or dramatization then perhaps it could have been a better film. Sadly, this is not the case.
Like I said, I'm picky about the kind of romance that I can tolerate in films. In The Prince of Tides, it was problematic. For one thing, it is a challenge to care for the romance between the characters partially because it takes forever to build and I would not even predict that it would be part of the film if the movie poster didn't reveals Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand together in a romantic position. But more obviously it was difficult for me to sympathise for the building romance due to the fact that both parties are married. The context of the marriage the characters face is complicated, but the relationship between a deeply troubled married man and his married psychiatrist is a lot to take in and seems a bit much for a sensible relationship. The fact that both characters faced so much and had a relationship which took so long to build without expressing much in the way of romance until about the end of the film just further pointed out how melodramatic and slow the film was without much touching sentimentality. All in all, there is an audience for The Prince of Tides, but people expecting something special in terms of romance or depth have other places to look.
The acting in The Prince of Tides is pretty good though.
Nick Nolte's leading performance in The Prince of Tides is immensely powerful. He conjures up his emotions very organically without suffering from the melodramatic nature of the film. He projects a southern charm into the part which he fits into the context of easily and he constantly maintains a level of energy which gives him the easy ability to command the screen. Nick Nolte is able to play both an insightful and likable lead in The Prince of Tides as well as a passionate man of romance which means that he is able to seamlessly transition into all of the themes in the story, and he does it with pure organic dramatic strength which really gives him a lot of credibility.
Barbra Streisand's performance gave me mixed feelings. While I praise the fact that she was able to direct, produce and pull together a performance for The Prince of Tides all at once, I found that her acting was hit and miss. As a whole she brings a certain easy charm to the role which makes her likable and her chemistry with Nick Nolte is very good, but the problem is that I didn't really believe her as a psychiatrist. In the role of Susan Lowenstein, Barbra Streisand never really delivers her lines with any sort of confidence which means that as a psychiatrist she doesn't really seem to grasp the strength necessary for her character. I liked her in the film, but I found issues with her performance because she uses a stoic approach to the material in her scenes as a psychiatrist which is necessary but fails to project many outside of them during personal interactions unless they are to drop romantic hints in scenes with Nick Nolte. All in all, Barbra Streisand isn't dead on with hitting all of her emotions in The Prince of Tides, but her general presence is charming and her chemistry with Nick Nolte justifies her casting in the lead role.
Kate Nelligan is great as well. In the small matter of screen time she receives as a member of the flashback scenes, she makes an impact by being so organically intense the entire time and stays fierce. Kate Nelligan delivers all of her lines with serious dramatic strength which makes her a sympathetic and memorable figure for the story.
But despite a talented cast and stylish direction from Barbra Streisand, The Prince of Tides walks a tediously melodramatic line between romance and character study without ever sensibly resting on one or tying them together which makes the film unlikely to convert viewers who are not already fond of generic romantic films.
This film is very '90s in feel, and that piece of conventional direction makes the other storytelling tropes all the more glaring, and it's hard enough to disregard the predictability of this romantic drama on paper, especially when the film gives you plenty of time to soak in the conventions. Clocking in at about 132 minutes in length, this intimate drama is simply too long, holding your attention throughout its course, - largely because it takes advantage of the length to flesh things out pretty thoroughly - but still dragging its feet with filler, if not material that isn't grand enough in scope to justify its excessiveness. When the film isn't jarring between its layers, it's sticking too deeply with its storytelling formula throughout its lengthy run, resulting in a sense of repetition whose aimlessness still cannot obscure the predictability. If the familiarity doesn't make this narrative predictable, then it's the contrivances, which include dialogue of great snap, but limited believability, and characterization which, in addition to being stereotypical, feels manufactured in a way that forcibly drives certain conflicts. This type of manufactured characterization, while not as serious as I might lead you to believe, stands as a supplement to this film's melodramatics, which are generally compensated for solidly by many a genuine storytelling touch, yet still stand, occasionally as soapy, when backed by some overt sentimentality to Barbra Streisand's storytelling which betrays what subtlety there is to this affair. The final product is never less than thoroughly compelling, but Streisand seems to want this film to be more than what it can be with all of its shortcomings, and such an ambition ironically stresses the issues of the drama, until it finally falls short of what it would have been if there was more comfort to Streisand's efforts. Nonetheless, Streisand's and the other storyteller's inspiration stands firm enough to make the final product a consistently compelling and ultimately rewarding melodrama that even endears on an aesthetic level.
There's an almost surprisingly considerable deal of attention being placed into the style of this drama, with Stephen Goldblatt delivers on often flat, and just as often hauntingly subtle cinematography, while James Newton Howard really impresses with a formulaic, but grand and captivating score that supplements resonance, when it doesn't exacerbate sentimentality. The aesthetic grace of this drama sort of intensifies a sense of manufacturing here, but much more than that, it livens things up, doing a lot to drive the entertainment value which in turn does a lot to draw your attention towards the genuine value of this drama. Although formulaic and rather melodramatic, this story is rich with potential as an intimate study on a man coming to terms with his own demons as he works to define his suicidal sister's, and finds new love along the way, at least brought to life by a solid script. Becky Johnston's and source material author Pat Conroy's script has plenty of repetitious fat around the edges, and gets to be manufactured with its histrionic dialogue and characterization, but it is nonetheless pretty strong, with generally razor-sharp dialogue and an amusing sense of humor to liven things up amidst realized and thorough exposition which tosses in some surprises to break up the monotony and predictability of this formulaic melodrama. Barbra Streisand's direction further reinforces the engagement value of this film, with tight pacing that keeps entertainment value consistent, until punctuated by a certain sentimentality that, when realized, transcends contrivances in order to resonate with its drawing you into the struggles and triumphs of well-drawn and, of course, well-portrayed characters. Where this character study truly thrives is in its performances, as just about everyone convinces and has a time to shine, and yet, hardly anyone flirts with the effectiveness of leading man Nick Nolte, who is asked to do only so much, but does it all impeccably, whether he be delivering on the sparkling charm of a good-hearted man struggling to escape his past through humor, or delivering on the enthralling emotional range which sells this man's gradual achievement of revelation and a new grip on life. Nolte, especially with his electric chemistry with Streisand, carries this intimate drama as one of the key sources of inspiration which allow the final product to transcend its shortcomings as a thoroughly rewarding affair.
When the tide falls, under the pressure of conventions, repetitious dragging, and melodramatics which are made all the more glaring by sentimentality threaten to leave the final product to fall short of its potential, and on the backs of handsome cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt, beautiful score work by James Newton Howard, witty and well-rounded scripting by Becky Johnston and Pat Conroy, heartfelt direction by Barbra Streisand, and solid performances throughout a cast which Nick Nolte stands out from, "The Prince of Tides" rises as a rewardingly intimate portrait on finding personal revelations in yourself through family and new love.
3/5 - Good
Nick Nolte is a remarkable actor who has given some impassioned and compelling performances throughout his career, but The Prince of Tides is an exception. The restraints that a more seasoned director would've given Nolte would've helped him because this is a performance in which Nolte plays willy-nilly without a clear plan for his character or a clear character arc. It's acting without story-telling. Babs is there to a spectator and can't match or restrain her costar.
What is more, the story is weak. The reveals about the Wingos' childhood traumas surprise no one, and while I can suspend my disbelief about a lot of things, it's difficult to imagine any self-respecting therapist relying so heavily on a family member to treat her patient.
Overall, Streisand can do a lot of things, but I don't think directing actors is one of them.