The Prince of Tides (1991)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Prince of Tides</strong> (1991)

(On Cable TV, February 2019) There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn’t like Barbra Streisand—her diva behaviour is legendary, leading to enough tabloid stories to make her legendary in her lifetime and cemented for the younger generation with “The Streisand Effect”. Even from a strict filmgoer’s perspective, she’s often the strangest part of any movie in which she’s the uncontested star—far too young in Hello, Dolly!, unconvincingly male in Yentl, showboating in The Way We Were, self-indulgent in A Star is Born, etc. But even knowing all of this, there is a magnetic star quality to her screen presence that compensates for a lot. Call it sex appeal, or sheer talent or most probably a mixture of both. In The Prince of Tides, she stars and directs and, perhaps miraculously, keeps her most outlandish tendencies to herself. She looks amazing in glasses and white nylons, directs with a nice narrative flow and lets Nick Nolte take the spotlight that his character deserves. Nolte is terrific as a damaged man with deep-seated trauma, far too quick to parry probing questions with jokes but intensely damaged nonetheless. Streisand has a comparatively easier role as his therapist. In the grand tradition of romantic drama, a major professional breach of ethics soon follows. The character-based drama is handled effectively, although the film is too long at nearly two hours and a quarter—and by “helping” the characters get over their trauma, it sands off nearly everything that was interesting about them out of the story. By the end of the film, Nolte’s character is psychologically healthier but also completely uninteresting. Still, The Prince of Tides did exceed my expectations: It’s quick to create narrative interest, and even a weaker third act can’t quite erase the goodwill created by the early scenes in which patient and psychiatrist are engaged in a ferocious game of wits. I liked it well enough, and have another movie to use as an example when asked about my uncharacteristic liking of Streisand.

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