The Prince of Tides (1991)

prince of tides poster 1991 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking, solid cast

Story drags

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Prince of Tides

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Genre(s): Drama/Romance

Release Date(s): December 25, 1991

MPAA Rating: R

prince of tides kids swimming scene

Nothing can go wrong if we can stay underwater forever

The South holds many secrets, and the family of Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) is like the South.  When Tom’s sister Savannah (Melinda Dillon) attempts suicide, Tom leaves his strained marriage to Sallie (Blythe Danner) to head to New York City to see if he can help Savannah’s psychiatrist Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand) get insight to her issues.  In New York, Tom begins to face his own past, his resentment of his mother (Kate Nelligan), and the deep, dark secret that his family has hidden for years.  Opening up to Lowenstein has unleashed something inside of him, and Tom finds his life rapidly changing.

Directed by Barbra Steisand, The Prince of Tides is a romance drama.  The film adapts the 1986 novel by Pat Conroy and performed well with critics and at the box office.  The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Nolte), Best Supporting Actress (Nelligan), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #1022).

The Prince of Tides was one of those “adult” dramas that as a kid I had little interest in.  There was no action and it was largely about emotions and talking (or honestly the lack there of).  The movie dives into deep issues but the film also takes a strange path to get there.

prince of tides rape scene

Well…that’s awful

It feels like The Prince of Tides is out of order.  The movie circles around an untold mystery of the Wingo family and why Savannah Wingo has attempted suicide again.  This mystery is shocking, but it is revealed about midway through the movie…and then the rest of the movie is filled out with romance.  This feels weird, but it is intentional.  The mystery has affected the lives of everyone involved living and dead and the release after the revealing of it is about the acceptance of things which happen in childhood can be explored to the advantage of the adult…things can change.

Nick Nolte’s character is a strange one.  He’s very accepting and open despite growing up in a closed Southern family.  He gets a bombastic nature from his parents, but the softer side of the character is the more interesting one.  Barbra Streisand plays the psychiatrist pulling him out of his shell, but the movie does feel a bit of a promotional project since she directed and also cast her son Jason Gould as her son.  Blythe Danner and Melinda Dillon have good, but small roles and Kate Nelligan is a scene stealer as the distant Wingo mother who seems more about status than her children at points.  George Carlin is a surprising addition as Savannah’s gay neighbor Eddie Detreville (who isn’t treated any differently which was different for a gay character in 1991).

prince of tides barbra streisand nick nolte

Somehow I thinks this breaks some patient-doctor rules…

The movie looks great.  The film and the story is largely built on the contrast of Nolte’s two worlds.  You get the beautiful South Carolina coastline with its snaking tidal water weaving through reeds and the coldness of New York City in the early 1990s.  The end of the movie has the character spending time in a happy medium of the countryside of New York.

The Prince of Tides is a smart and solid movie.  Despite this and its deft portrayal, it isn’t one of my favorite movies.  It drags and moves at a slow pace as the story unfolds, and the story at points is almost an anti-story with narration explaining what needs to be said.  For this reason alone, The Prince of Tides is probably not for everyone…and the roughness of the “mystery” might be hard for some to handle, but it is a worthy movie nonetheless.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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