A deeply moving exploration of the tangled emotions of a dysfunctional Southern family, this lovingly crafted (though unevenly scripted) film of Pat Conroy’s novel centers on Nick Nolte’s performance of a lifetime. Bringing her usual strengths of character to her role as Nolte’s psychiatrist/lover, Barbra Streisand marks every frame with the intensity and care of a filmmaker committed to heartfelt, unashamed emotional involvement with her characters.
Ex-teacher/coach Nolte is in a midlife crisis unusually chaotic even for a Nolte character. He’s jobless, drinking too much and struggling with a disintegrating marriage to Blythe Danner.
Nolte’s disturbed sister Melinda Dillon, a NY poet of some repute, has attempted suicide, and she lies catatonic in hospital restraints. Her brother is summoned north to help Streisand piece together the splintered mirror of her past. In the process, this emotionally guarded doctor finds herself not only becoming Nolte’s surrogate mother but also crossing the professional line to emotional and sexual involvement.
Screenwriters underdevelop some characters (especially Dillon) while overdoing the boorishness of Streisand’s musician husband (Jeroen Krabbe) and the ‘Golden Boy’ subplot involving her violin-playing son (Jason Gould), who learns football from Nolte. But the heart of the film is the relationship between Nolte and Streisand, a creative sparring match doomed to go nowhere but leaves an indelible imprint on each.
1991: Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Nick Nolte), Supp. Actress (Kate Nelligan), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction