It's big, it's lush, it's even good—if you don't count the pastoral love scenes late in the movie between the Nolte and Streisand characters, a disingenuous montage that plays like a soft-focus coffee ad. That aside, Tides is a savvy romantic drama directed with an impressively sure hand by Streisand. She has skillfully captured the sweep and emotional punch of Pat Conroy's 1986 best-seller while deftly condensing its Southern gothic sprawl.
Tides is what in days gone by would have been called a woman's picture, except it is very much a man's story and should appeal to men—sensitive ones at least—as much as to female filmgoers. Its titular prince is Tom Wingo (Nolte), an unemployed high school English teacher and football coach in Charleston, S.C., a fellow who has temporarily lost his bearings. When his sister, a famous poet, attempts suicide, he is called to Manhattan to consult with her psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Streisand). Thanks to the shrink (and a series of harrowing flashbacks), Wingo is able to confront his family's Big Secret—and it's a doozy. He also falls for the good doctor.
Nolte, looking seriously handsome, is called upon to do some pretty tough scenes, and he delivers big-time. Streisand seems perfectly at ease in her part. Others who contribute meaningfully are Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan, George Carlin and Jason Gould. The last is Streisand's and Elliott Gould's real-life son, sympathetic as the shrink's surly adolescent offspring. (R)