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Ironweed is a film many people would find slow. Nothing much happens and the characters don't change. The stark grim atmosphere and the dead end conditions unrelenting. There is no hope in the story of Frances Phelan. He has abandoned his family 22 years ago after dropping his 13 year old baby to its death. The film starts with him visiting his dead baby's grave for the first time, and then follows him around as he joins his companion Helen Archer (Meryl Streep) and his friend of sorts Rudy (Tom Waits). All three of them are alcoholics, and we watch as they wade through the alleys of Albany 1938 looking for a place to sleep . They get robbed, they see a homeless prostitute from Alaska die of cold and they get into fights. But there is no emotional release in their anger or in their better moments. You'd expect there to be emancipated joy when Streep sings in a bar in front of a full house, or rage when a bunch of kids rob them of all their money.Read more ›
August '09 EDIT: Butch Johnson, a projectionist, gave the film a 3 star rating (on Feb. 27, 2009); he commented that this film was originally filmed in a fullscreen (1.33 : 1) aspect ratio, and "cropped" on the top and bottom for commercial "widescreen" theatrical distribution. Comparing this fullscreen version with the widescreen version (which can be seen on youtube in installments, numbered: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) Mr. Johnson's claim appears quite valid. Consequently, although there's certainly something to be said for a film that fills our widescreen television screens, this DVD does not appear to be a pan-and-scan; it actually lets us see more of the "original" film, in--paradoxically--a smaller "blackboxed" 4X3 area.
UPDATE APRIL 2013: Hosanna! The Bluray widescreen (1:77:1) version of this film is vastly superior to the previously released fullscreen version. As mentioned in my two previous paragraphs, the top and the bottom of this newer version have been trimmed, but the film is now available the way the director intended, and it packs a much stronger wallop. The video quality of the bluray version is greatly improved, and it makes for a considerably richer movie experience. Enjoy!
Fast foward to about ten years later and I discovered William Kennedys "Albany Trio" at the library. When I finally got to the last of the trio tales I read "Ironweed" in one day and then went out and rented the vhs version at my local video store. Jack Nicholson does an outstanding job in his role as "Francis Phelan" a man haunted by the ghosts from his past.
Tom Waits as "Rudy the kraut" was my favorite character. Meryl Streep is outstanding as usual in her role as Francis Phelans girlfriend. Yes it is sad, depressing and not for all tastes (especially mainstream moviegoers) but, the performances by all are heartfelt. One of the few movies brought to the screen from a great story by William Kennedy who also wrote the screenplay.
Great soundtrack by John Morris and Hector Babenco directed this wonderful adaption. Now with all the garbage DVD's on sale I can not understand why this movie is not available on DVD.
I managed to find an old vhs copy for $3.00 at a small video store here in Heidelberg, Germany where I currrently reside, but I will still wait patiently for this film classic to be released on DVD.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beyond boring. Hard to believe that two great stars like Nicholson and Streep could be that boring.Published 15 days ago by Dr. Marilyn Rosenthal
William Kennedy won The Pulitzer Prize for "Ironweed" then adapted this screenplay. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep are homeless residents of Albany in 1936. Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Seaman
excellent movie of love and hard times during the depression. I would recommend this movie to everyone. Read morePublished 3 months ago by carol j hegdahl
This movie is a timeless view of homelessness. It creatively expresses the mental health issues that encompasses much of our society's homeless population.Published 5 months ago by TBI
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You're quite right, IMDb has changed the aspect ratio from 1:33 to 1:85 in tech. specs. since I last looked at the site. So apparently this film was widescreen when released and my many viewings of the VHS release have dulled my memory. I have since received the copy I ordered and am sad to... Read More
Feb 25, 2009 by birdman | See all 6 posts
Someone correct me, but isn't that Ted Levine in the box car playing the banjo and singing Waits Poor Little Lambs? Years before he played Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. And Buffalo Bill is what Franny calls himself as he wakes Waits' Rudy passed out on the street. Strange coincidence.
Mar 28, 2011 by Robert Wheatley | See all 2 posts
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