6.8/10
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48 user 28 critic

Ironweed (1987)

R | | Drama | 12 February 1988 (USA)
An alcoholic drifter spends Halloween in his home town of Albany, New York after returning there for the first time in decades.

Director:

Hector Babenco

Writers:

William Kennedy (novel), William Kennedy (screenplay)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Nicholson ... Francis Phelan
Meryl Streep ... Helen
Carroll Baker ... Annie Phelan
Michael O'Keefe ... Billy
Diane Venora ... Peg
Fred Gwynne ... Oscar Reo
Margaret Whitton ... Katrina
Tom Waits ... Rudy
Jake Dengel Jake Dengel ... Pee Wee
Nathan Lane ... Harold Allen
James Gammon ... Reverend Chester
Will Zahrn ... Rowdy Dick
Laura Esterman Laura Esterman ... Nora
Joe Grifasi ... Jack
Hy Anzell ... Rosskam
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Storyline

Albany, New York, Halloween, 1938. Francis Phelan and Helen Archer are bums, back in their birth city. She was a singer on the radio, he a major league pitcher. Death surrounds them: she's sick, a pal has cancer, he digs graves at the cemetery and visits the grave of his infant son whom he dropped; visions of his past haunt him, including ghosts of two men he killed. That night, out drinking, Helen tries to sing at a bar. Next day, Fran visits his wife and children and meets a grandson. He could stay, but decides it's not for him. Helen gets their things out of storage and finds a hotel. Amidst their mistakes and dereliction, the film explores their code of fairness and loyalty. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 February 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El amor es un eterno vagabundo See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$27,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$36,973, 20 December 1987, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$7,393,346
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the trolley car scene, mounted members of the New York National Guard were played by members of the New York State Police Mounted Unit, since disbanded. See more »

Goofs

As noted, this film takes place in 1938; but a billboard is seen advertising the Marx Brothers film "At the Circus" which is a 1939 release. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Pee Wee: [gathered around a fire barrel] Oh God, it's too damn cold out here. Hey, Francis.
Francis Phelan: Hey, Pee Wee.
Pee Wee: Have you come back?
Francis Phelan: Yeah. You, uh, seen Helen around?
Pee Wee: No. I haven't seen her in a couple days.
Francis Phelan: Well, I'll catch up with her.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Simpsons: Homer the Moe (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

He's Me Pal
Performed by Meryl Streep
See more »

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User Reviews

Not for the faint of heart
18 May 2002 | by csm23See all my reviews

Have you ever wondered what's it's like to be homeless? To most of us, it's as foreign an existence as the medieval world of Hugh Capet. And yet, it's a way of life that's within reach of all of us. And I'm not talking about its physical proximity, about the unfortunates we pass on the streets with their bed rolls on their backs: on the contrary, I'm referring to its spiritual, psychological proximity, to all the rest of us, who, given the right circumstances, could give up on our cheery Western materialist society and wander off into the shadows.

Ironweed takes its viewers into that shadowy world of the rail yards, cardboard shantytowns, underpasses, and abandoned automobiles, and shows us incisive glimpses of how a person arrives there. Featuring what I think are the very best performances by Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, Ironweed gets us deep into the sooty, grimy, bilious skin of the two `hobos.' Like Schindler's List, Ironweed is dark poetry. When the movie is over, you're haunted for days by the imagery.

Set in Albany during the Great Depression, Ironweed delivers not an ounce of moralizing. It's like a clinical exposition of the homeless person's entire life, both from without, and within. On the outside, of course, there's the Depression: a society doing the best it can to get by. From the `hobo's' point of view, one feels the implicit violence of a culture taught to view others as economic instruments of their own survival. The homeless, of course, are on the bottom end of the food chain. On the inside, Ironweed takes us into the intense pain of dashed hopes and expectations. From within and without, the homeless are caught in a whirling vortex that only grinds them down deeper and deeper into despair, the type that Kierkegaard's describes in `Sickness unto Death.' It's where intense poverty is not just physical, but spiritual.

This is a terrific movie; but, it's not for the faint of heart.


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