Based on Israel Horovitz's play of the same name, NORTH SHORE FISH boasts character development and witty dialogue, but remains too stagy to make a successful adaptation to film. Like its protagonists, the tale stays trapped between the walls of a fish processing plant over the course of a
single day. This made-for-cable film was released on home video in 1998.
North Shore Fish is a small-town Massachusetts institution, a processing and packaging plant where generations of the same families have worked. Hard times have reduced it to a handful of workers repackaging their product under other labels for resale. One morning, the workers learn that plant
manager Sal (Tony Danza) expects a new government inspector to show up. Aware that owner Markie (Louis Del Grande) is considering selling the business, Sal is worried.
Sal's got other problems. Married, he is having an affair with one of his employees, Flo (Mercedes Ruehl), who's pregnant. He pushes her toward abortion but Flo's uncertain. Everyone at North Shore Fish harbors pain. Obese Josie (Rusty Schwimmer) has been living alone since her husband ran off
with a younger woman. Lonely handyman Porker (Peter Riegert) has proposed to every woman in the plant. Ruthie (Cordelia Richards), is pregnant and a month overdue. There's also Arlyne (Carroll Baker), Ruthie's conservative mother, and Maureen (Elizabeth Brown), training her cousin Marlena (Devon
Pierce) to replace her while she's on vacation.
The inspector, Shimma (Wendie Malick), doesn't like what she sees and refuses to pass the plant. Sexist Sal tries to seduce her, to no avail. Tension mounts and Sal battles with his employees, even punching Porker when he steps between the boss and Flo during an argument. The consternation sends
Ruthie into labor, and she has a girl. Sal breaks the bad news; given Shimma's negative evaluation, Markie will sell North Shore Fish to a company that wants to turn it into a fitness center. As the employees pack their things for the last time, Flo contemplates the abortion, but Porker, no longer
a lackey, hits Sal and proposes to Flo.
While NORTH SHORE FISH is peppered with witty dialogue, the characters sometimes register like condescending impressions of earthy blue-collar workers, quick to anger and to use their fists or sexuality as negotiating tools. Horovitz also apes David Mamet with a profusion of profanity, which
doesn't seem appropriate for characters who at other times display traditional small-town virtues.
Director Steve Zuckerman can't do much with the little he has to work with. The one-location setting of NORTH SHORE FISH is to be expected from its origins on the stage, but the drab factory surroundings are confining and oppressive. Zuckerman tries to break things up with a few trips outside, but
a parking lot and a hot dog truck stir up zero visual excitement.
The cast is mostly terrific, particularly Danza as a sexist pig with a Yankee accent. Riegert is appealing in a role similar to his pickle man from CROSSING DELANCEY (1988). Schwimmer is a standout, by turns raging and wounded. Only Ruehl, so skilled at portraying characters of intelligence,
struggles. She seems artificial and cloying when playing more limited women, and Flo's decision to settle for Porker seems less a triumph than an act of desperation. NORTH SHORE FISH is an okay effort for television that could have benefited from a more comprehensive rewrite. (Adult situations,profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: Based on Israel Horovitz's play of the same name, NORTH SHORE FISH boasts character development and witty dialogue, but remains too stagy to make a successful adaptation to film. Like its protagonists, the tale stays trapped between the walls of a fish pro… (more)