Picks and Pans Review: Passion Fish

updated 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard

This admittedly predictable story of an embittered paraplegic who, through the intervention of a determined nurse, learns to live again, is enlivened by a sharp script by writer-director John Sayles, the haunting lilt of zydeco music and the sullen beauty of the Louisiana swamps. When McDonnell, a soap actress, is paralyzed from the waist down, the result of a New York City taxi accident en route to a leg-waxing appointment, she cuts short the rehab and decamps to her childhood Louisiana home. There she drinks too much, clings tight to her lifeline—the TV remote control—and sharpens her tongue on a parade of home nurses. "Did they tell you that I was a bitch?" she asks when the latest caretaker (Woodard) shows up. "On wheels," is the quick reply.

Woodard, it turns out, has her own problems: She's just out of detox and trying to reassemble her untidy life. The two clash, then forge a friendship. Passion Fish will be savored most by audiences willing to give themselves over to the slow pace set by Sayles—a pace altogether fitting for a movie set in bayou country—and the pointless though humorous detours. Willing they will be in the company of McDonnell and Woodard, who make lovely and credible their own particular metamorphoses. (R)

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