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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Prince of Tides (1991)

"I don't know when my parents began their war against each other. But I do know the only prisoners they took were their children."
- Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: November 21, 2001

Stars: Barbra Streisand, Nick Nolte
Other Stars: Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan, Jeroen Krabbé
Director: Barbra Streisand

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: R for (a scene of sex-related violence; strong language)
Run Time: 02h:11m:40s
Release Date: November 06, 2001
UPC: 043396233294
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B+B+B- D

DVD Review

Nick Nolte stars in The Prince of Tides as Tom Wingo, an ex-teacher and ex-football coach in North Carolina who finds himself unemployed and at emotional loose ends in middle age. A tense discussion with his wife Sallie (Blythe Danner) is interrupted by the arrival of his mother, Lila Wingo Newbury (Kate Nelligan), who informs him that his sister Savannah (Melinda Dillon) has attempted suicide... again. Wingo heads to New York City, where he tries to help Savannah's psychiatrist Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand) fill in the blanks of his sister's blocked memory. Together, Wingo and Lowenstein find friendship and strength.

Based on Pat Conroy's novel, The Prince of Tides plays partly as a mystery and partly as a romance, but its central themes are darker and more complex. It's about the way a child's mind works when subjected to unthinkable trauma, and the effects those locked-away memories can have on adult life and relationships. It's about survival at any cost in the face of domestic violence and poverty. And it's about finding the courage to face one's past, and choosing to face one's future.

Director Barbra Streisand demonstrates her apparently universal competence once again—she directs with a sure hand, establishing a gentle pace that allows the film's emotional core to emerge in a natural fashion. Her handling of violence is particularly impressive, maintaining some decorum onscreen but pulling no punches where the rough stuff is concerned. She's adept at the old school approach, creating a harrowing sequence with imagery and editing that make us believe we've seen more than she actually shows. It's a delicate balancing act, and Streisand pulls it off—the film's most painful scene is neither too explicit to watch, nor too tame to have meaning.

She also resists the temptation to turn this story into her own vehicle—Dr. Lowenstein is a significant but secondary character, and Streisand plays her with a nicely subdued naturalism. The story is about Tom Wingo's journey from incoherent confusion and loss, to painful understanding, and finally to true adulthood, and Streisand keeps Wingo at the center of her movie. Nick Nolte ably rises to the occasion, delivering an intense and emotional performance that plays well against his tough-guy screen persona—when Nolte breaks down in tears, it means more onscreen than it would in the hands of most actors. It's a risky, effective performance that foreshadows the actor's recent work in independent films, and I don't think his contribution here can be overstated. The supporting performances are consistently solid and credible, with an entertaining cameo by George Carlin as Savannah's gay neighbor and nasty, edgy work by Jeroen Krabbé as Dr. Lowenstein's jealous husband. But Nolte's performance carries The Prince of Tides, and it would not be the same film without him.

The Prince of Tides isn't perfect. James Newton Howard's soaring orchestral score frequently sounds schmaltzy and inappropriate, threatening to trivialize the serious subject at the film's core. And Stephen Goldblatt's cinematography is a little too golden much of the time, evoking warm recollections of childhood, rather than painful recovery from it. But this worthwhile drama maintains an intelligent, literary feel that serves the script well, portraying a damaged family with warmth, emotion and more humor than one might expect.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar's DVD presents The Prince of Tides in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The source print exhibits a fair number of dirt specks, and the film itself looks a bit soft, but the DVD transfer is generally clear and solid, preserving fine image details and the warm, muted tones of Stephen Goldblatt's cinematography successfully. Certainly up to contemporary standards.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Spanish, Portugueseyes
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Prince of Tides retains its original theatrical Dolby Surround soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 format on DVD. The soundtrack is heavily front-oriented, with dialogue centered, music in stereo and just a hint of ambience in the surrounds. It's not the most impressive ProLogic presentation I've heard, and dialogue is slightly muddy in a few spots, but musical bass is present and the film doesn't demand an enveloping audio experience. The disc also includes 2.0 monaural French, Spanish, and Portuguese dubs, with the usual passable but awkwardly disconnected vocal performances; as subtitles in the same three languages are available, the dubs seem unnecessary here.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Way We Were
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:11m:40s

Extras Review: The Prince of Tides is light on extras, with 28 picture-menu chapter stops (a Columbia TriStar standard of late), subtitles in 7 languages, and a few standard supplements:

Talent Files include "selected filmographies" for Barbra Streisand, Nick Nolte, Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan, and Jeroen Krabbé, but provide no biographical information at all.

Trailers include the one-and-a-half-minute teaser for The Prince of Tides, as well as the three-minute full trailer; a two-and-a-half-minute trailer for The Mirror Has Two Faces, another Streisand directorial/starring effort; and the 02:35 trailer for The Way We Were, the classic romantic drama starring Streisand and Robert Redford. The latter is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed nonanamorphic format, while the others are 1.33:1 pan-and-scan presentations, drawn from noticeably smeary videotape masters. It's always nice to have trailers onboard, but the presentations here leave something to be desired.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

The Prince of Tides is a smart, adult drama that manages to combine romance with darker themes of trauma and recovery. Columbia TriStar's DVD presents the film in fine form, though supplements are minimal. Nick Nolte's performance alone makes this one worth a spin.


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