Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1991. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Barwood Films, Longfellow Pictures. Screenplay by Pat Conroy, Becky Johnston, based on the novel by Pat Conroy. Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt. Produced by Barbra Streisand. Music by James Newton Howard. Production Design by Paul Sylbert. Costume Design by Ruth Morley. Film Editing by Don Zimmerman. Academy Awards 1991. Boston Film Critics Awards 1991. Golden Globe Awards 1991. New York Film Critics Awards 1991.
Barbra Streisand shows, as with her other films as director, her incredible talent with directing actors while never being able to balance out uneven storylines. Nick Nolte is excellent as a high school teacher from the south who is brought to New York City by a psychiatrist (Streisand) to help in the case of his mentally unstable twin sister (Melinda Dillon). Her latest suicide attempt has prompted her doctor to ask Nolte questions about their family’s past in order to unravel some of her troubles. Streisand is in no way prepared for the terrifying history of abuse and fear that these two were raised in, nor is Nolte ready for how much he ends up connecting with the good doctor. The film is at first a fascinating exploration of family troubles, then loses its focus when the problems are cleared up and the story concentrates on the romance budding between the two leads. It quickly shifts from interesting to romantic to ridiculous, ending with a lamentably bad finale that is completely out of touch with the rest of the experience. Streisand’s acting is even better than her direction, still managing to captivate audiences with her presence in the same fresh way she had about her in her film debut Funny Girl. She is equalled by the fierce and memorable performance by Kate Nelligan as Nolte’s domineering, social-climbing mother, a character whose experience walks away with the whole film.