Ironweed is more than a chance to watch two multimillion-dollar actors play bums. Each character has a particular story; each is given a dignity that seems honest in the context of a worldwide Depression in the late '30s, and at no time are we certain what the future holds in store for either character. [12 Feb 1988, p.A]
The movie generates little suspense and no relief. And yet it is worth seeing as a chamber piece, an exercise in which two great actors expand their range and work together in great sympathy. Both Nicholson and Streep have moments as good as anything they have done.
For a few flickering moments, we care a bit about the people, but then it's gone. There's little plot, and the picture is far too long and fraught with allegory. Director Hector Babenco's sense of style is evident, but a sharper editing eye would have helped.