A troubled man talks to his suicidal sister's psychiatrist about their family history and falls in love with her in the process
This epic, messy sprawl of a movie can be seen to have two major points in its favour. One is the sheer scale of its ambition, trying somehow, and never entirely successfully, to cram life in the Deep South, childhood traumas, psychotherapy, an adult affair, teenage alienation, old Uncle Gay Best Pal and all, into just over two hours of screen time.
The other is the performance of Nick Nolte, showing here a class previously untapped and, with his new slimline frame and walnut tan, offering the best advertisement for sobriety this side of Ted Kennedy's jowls.
As southern football coach Tom Wingo, Nolte finds himself in the plush Manhattan offices of society analyst Susan Lowenstem (Streisand), here shot m a flattering light by a sympathetic director. His sister (Melinda Dillon) has made another suicide attempt (the result of a soon-to-be-unveiled childhood trauma) and, while offering brotherly comfort, Tom finds himself giving up smoking and taking up sex with the shrink.
Up to the inevitable point of consummation, Streisand the director handles the proceedings with considerable skill, particularly in the film's best scene, a quite cringe worthy dinner party gathering of Manhattan literati. From the moment, however, that she and Nolte finally curl up together, Barbra in a sort of Navajo rug, things go downhill fast, while the bizarre subplot involving Lowenstem's spoilt brat teenage son (Jason Gould, Streisand's own son by Elliott Gould) simply gets in the way to a quite infuriating degree.
Graced with fine performances and commendably biting off more than it can ever hope to chew, The Prince Of Tides is a rare slice of romantic moviemaking for all those grown-ups feeling ignored since Kramer Vs. Kramer last rattled their value systems. Best to take along your mother, a large box of hankies, and a hefty dose of salt.