Ironweed: A Novel
Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger, full-time drunk, has hit bottom. Years ago he left Albany in a hurry after killing a scab during a trolley workers’ strike. He ran away again after accidentally—and fatally—dropping his infant son.
Now, in 1938, Francis is back in town, roaming the old familiar streets with his hobo pal, Helen, trying to make peace with the ghosts of the past and the present.
Based on the William Kennedy novel of the same name Ironweed is set in the waning years of the Depression. Jack Nicholson plays a washed-up ballplayer who deserted his family back in the teens when he accidentally killed his son. Since that time, Nicholson has been a shabby barfly, living from drink to drink. Wandering into Albany, New York, Nicholson blearily seeks out his girlfriend and erstwhile drinking companion Meryl Streep. The two derelicts touch base in a mission managed by minister James Gammon, and later in Fred Gwynne’s squalid gin mill. Over the next few days, Nicholson takes a few minor jobs to support his habit, while his mind wavers between past and present. A chance for a reconciliation with his wife Carroll Baker comes to naught when a group of local, baseball-bat wielding “reformers” take it upon themselves to drive all bums out of Albany. Directed by Hector Babenco (Kiss of the Spider Woman) , Ironweed is given over to the scenes between Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, both of whom are beyond praise.