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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Wallowing in the Low Tide

Wallowing in the Low Tide

Wallowing in the Low Tide

The Prince of Tides is a romantic psychological melodrama that pits the southern

gothic ethos of William Falkner against the theories of Sigmnud Freud on New York

City's clean and cool east side.

Nick Nolte plays Tom Wingo, a middle-aged football coach and high school English

teacher from the deep South whose marriage is disintegrating. He can't talk to his

wife, he doesn't know what he feels, and he can't explain why.

Tom doesn't think he amounts to much when compared to the passionate lives his sister

and older brother led.

Alas, Tom's brother was killed as he took an armed stand against the redevelopment

of the tidal basin where the three passed their tumultuous childhhod, caught in a

raging war between a socially ambitious mother and a violent ne'er-do-well father.

Tom's suicidal sister, Savannah, ran away from the South and off to New York to write

poetry. When Savannah tries to commit suicide again Tom is the only family member

willing to leave the South and venture to New York to help her psychiatrist, played

by Barbara Streisand, understand the darkness in Savannah's life.

Well, kids, it's the movies. Streisand's Dr. Susan Lowenstein has a controlling no-nonsense

attitude and keeps her shoulder pads always firmly in place - they never choose the

worst possible moment to slip and make her look like Charles Laughton in the Hunchback

of Notre Dame as they do on most people.

Even when Nolte makes a pass during a downtown party with an S&M leather queen,

a moustached Village People clone who've escaped from a 70s museum, the shoulder

boosters stay put and Streisand never loses her cool.

Icy on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, Streisand's Lowenstein is actually

as lonely and lost as Nolte's Wingo. Locked into a dead marriage with a self-obsessed,

internationally famous violinist, and unable to communicate with her teenage son,

Streisand hires Nolte to teach the boy football. Nolte and Streisand end up in each

other's arms.

If you're expecting a realistic study of family crisis and the tortures ancient childhood

pain can visit on adults, Prince of Tidees isn't it. "There is no crime beyond

forgiveness," Nolte tells his striving mother, who could have given Lady Macbeth

a few pointers. Prince of Tides preaches the 80s pop psychology message that all

wounds can be healed through forgiveness, even if the creator of those wounds is

still acting like a total prat.

Because it is, after all, a movie, Prince of Tides ascribes Savannah's problems to

one melodramatic incident, rather than to living for eighteen years in a family with

an incredibly high fruitcake count. Pinning Savannah's problems on one anguished

moment makes a good dramatic structure for the story, but dishonest psychology.

As both director and star Streisand shoots her better profile (the left), although

her camerawork is always throughly professional. Throughout the movie she waves and

weaves her hands like a Cambodian dancer, trying not to break her fake nails. She

and Nolte both give honourable performances, as does George Carlin as the stereotyped

Greenwich Village homosexual next door.

But who expects reality in a Hollywood movie? Prince of Tides is well made Hollywood

pablum, a two hour romantic escape where the bad guys pay for their misdeeds, true

evil comes from outside the home, and the soft-focus, richly lit sex scenes look

like an underwear layout for Victoria's Secret.

Grab a couple of candy bags from the concession stand, sink into a balcony seat and

descend into an enjoyable sugar shock.

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