‘News is the first rough draft of history…’
A bum returns to his home town where he has to confront his past.
There is not much of a story here, the premise is basically just a few days in the lives of a group of hobo’s. This could have been critically dull but as the bums are played by Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Tom Waits, Ironweed is a minor triumph. Obviously playing a hellraising drunken bum is not much of a stretch for Nicholson (it is practically an autobiographical piece for Waits!) but Streep as always puts in a revelatory, heart wrenching performance and as always she was Oscar nommed for it. Ironweed resists the urge to glamorize life as a bum in America, being spiritually closer to Bukowski than Kerouac but one thing it does borrow from On the Road is the brotherhood and loyalty between the homeless community. This makes for a touching and warm film with more than a tinge of sadness. Even heavyweights such as Nicholson and Streep can’t carry such a thin story for over two hours but this is still a solid and enjoyable slice of Americana.