Cannery Row (1982)
Nick Nolte and Debra Winger star in this whimsical romance based on JohnSteinbeck's novellas Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.Among the derelicts,dreamers and outcasts living in 1940s Monterey, California's Cannery Roware Doc (Nolte--Hotel Rwanda, The Prince of Tides), a marine biologistwith a past he wishes to forget, and Suzy (Winger--Shadowlands, Terms ofEndearment), a drifter who takes up residence in the bordello across thestreet from Doc. They fall in love, but for these two strong-willed,independent people, romance is not going to be easy . . .
Director-writer David S. Ward’s 1982 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row
(with material from another Steinbeck tale, Sweet Thursday
) has its charms, principally some top-drawer talent on both sides of the camera; the cast is headed by Nick Nolte and Debra Winger, Jack Nitzsche composed the music, and John Huston supplies the voice-over. In a previous life, Nolte’s Doc was known as Eddie "The Blur" Daniels, a star baseball pitcher in the 1920s who mysteriously gave up the game while still in his prime; now he’s a self-styled marine biologist with a predilection for octopi who makes his home on "The Row," a string of sardine fisheries in Monterey, California. There are a variety of colorful characters in this rundown ‘hood--a worldly-wise madam (Audra Lindley) and her charges, a bum (M. Emmet Walsh) and his buddies--but although it takes him a while to admit it, Doc only has eyes for Suzy (Winger), a newcomer to the scene who, by her own estimation, "ain’t got the class of a duck." The film relies mostly on these oddballs and their various idiosyncrasies and adventures, and Steinbeck clearly has considerable affection for them; it’s no surprise that some, including Doc, were based on real folks. But while Nolte and Winger have a certain squabbling rapport, the movie too often comes off as stagey (the dialogue), artificial (the sets), and glib. In the final analysis, Cannery Row
isn’t John Steinbeck’s greatest book (at the very least, it lacks the heft of East of Eden
or The Grapes of Wrath
), and this effort, despite its good points, will hardly be considered the best adaption of the author’s work to the screen or the stage. --Sam Graham