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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Stanley And Iris (1990)

A widow (Jane Fonda) with two kids works in a factory. It's there that she meets a man (Robert De Niro) who comes to her aid when a thief steals her purse. When she discovers he's illiterate, she helps him to learn to read and write so he can improve his lot in life and a friendship develops. Based on the novel UNION STREET by Pat Barker, this was the final film of director Martin Ritt who passed on several months after the film was released. For about 3/4 of its running time, it's a lovely story about two lonely people who are able to move forward in their lives because of each other. But something went wrong in the film's last quarter and it just fades away rather than given a proper ending. Since there are issues the film brings up that are never fully addressed, I suspect a lot ended up on the cutting room floor. There's the important issue of Fonda's daughter (Martha Plimpton) dropping out of school to work in the factory that's never fully explored and her sister (Swoozie Kurtz) and brother in law (Jamey Sheridan) that live with her at the beginning of the film suddenly disappear. Where did they go? It's things like that that ultimately make the film unsatisfying. The two title performances are excellent. Fonda fully inhabits her role and for those who complain about De Niro's "overacting" should check out his restrained subtle work here. With Feodor Chaliapin Jr. as De Niro's father and Harley Cross.

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