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

Show more on IMDbPro »

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

The picture's source "Ironweed" (1983) novel by William Kennedy is ranked at the No. #92 position on The Modern Library's "List of the 100 Best Novels written in English in the 20th Century". See more »

Goofs

When Francis returns to his wife's house, the kitchen floor has 12-inch vinyl composite tiles (VCT tiles). While VCT did exist in the 1930s, they were only in the 9 inch size. 12 inch VCTs were not made until the 1970s. 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

References Citizen Kane (1941) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
Streep's Greatest Performance
21 April 2001 | by kinolieberSee all my reviews

There are many reasons why this film is a masterpiece, but the most significant element is surely Streep's portrayal of a homeless alcoholic in 1930's Albany. Her appearance, about half an hour into the film, is quite frankly, astonishing. She walks into a soup kitchen and sits down next to Nicholson and your jaw drops at the transformation. Beyond the technical virtuosity, you marvel at the choices that Streep makes that express the character so movingly, from the vocal production which is almost like a groan of pain, to the body language including her constantly averted glance and shuffling walk which express the woman's lost self esteem, to her bursts of rage when we see the glimmer of the spirit she once posessed. There's a scene in a bar in which she sings for the patrons that you will never forget.

Every other element of the film succeeds: the other performances (Nicholson, Tom Waits and Carol Baker stand out), the production design recreating a vanished era flawlessly without resorting to the phony perfection of say a Merchant Ivory film, the sound design which is surprisingly complex for such an intimate film, the screenplay, the cinematography, the direction. How is it that Hector Babenco has only made two films since this one?


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