Silkwood: Wikis


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Original poster
Directed by Mike Nichols
Produced by Michael Hausman
Mike Nichols
Written by Nora Ephron
Alice Arlen
Starring Meryl Streep
Kurt Russell
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography Miroslav Ondricek
Editing by Sam O'Steen
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) December 14, 1983
Running time 131 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $35,615,609 (US)[1]

Silkwood is a 1983 American drama film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen was inspired by the true-life story of Karen Silkwood, who died in a suspicious car accident while investigating alleged wrongdoing at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant where she worked.



Karen Silkwood, a hard-living metallurgy worker at the Kerr-McGee plant in Cimarron, Oklahoma, shares a ramshackle house with two co-workers, her boyfriend Drew Stephens and her lesbian friend Dolly Pelliker. In addition to working tedious hours making plutonium fuel rods for nuclear reactors and dealing with the constant threat of exposure to radiation, her time is consumed by an ongoing battle waged against her former common law husband in an effort to have more time with their three children. In the little leisure time she has, she enjoys drinking and indulging in recreational drug use.

Because the plant has fallen behind on a major contract, employees are required to work long hours of overtime and managers are falsifying safety reports and cutting corners wherever possible, risking the welfare of the personnel. Karen approaches the union with her concerns and becomes active in lobbying for safeguards. She travels to Washington, D.C. where she interacts with union officials who appear to be more interested in the publicity she is generating than her welfare and that of her co-workers.

When Karen and several others become contaminated by radiation, plant officials try to minimize the incident. When she discovers the negatives of photographs of the faulty fuel rods that caused her illness have been retouched and records of inadequate safety measures have been altered, Karen decides to conduct an investigation of her own. Complications arise in her personal life when Drew, unable to deal with her obsession with gathering evidence, moves out and funeral parlor beautician Angela joins the household as Dolly's lover.

Once she feels she has gathered all the proof of wrongdoing she needs, Karen contacts a reporter from the New York Times and arranges a meeting. In the film's final moments, the scene fades out as Karen sees headlights in her rear-view mirror, then fades in on the aftermath of her fatal one-car crash, and the viewer is left to decide what happened.


The film was shot on location in Albuquerque and Los Alamos in New Mexico and Dallas, Howe, Texas City, and Tom Bean in Texas.


Critical reception

Vincent Canby of the New York Times called the film "a precisely visualized, highly emotional melodrama that's going to raise a lot of hackles" and "a very moving work." He added, "There are, however, problems, not unlike those faced by Costa-Gavras in his State of Siege and Missing, and they are major. Mr. Nichols and his writers . . . have attempted to impose a shape on a real-life story that, even as they present it, has no easily verifiable shape. We are drawn into the story of Karen Silkwood by the absolute accuracy and unexpected sweetness of its Middle American details and then, near the end, abandoned by a film whose images say one thing and whose final credit card another. The muddle of fact, fiction and speculation almost, though not quite, denies the artistry of all that's gone before." He concluded, "I realize that films shouldn't be judged in bits and pieces, but it's difficult not to see Silkwood in that way. For most of its running time it is so convincing - and so sure of itself - that it seems a particular waste when it goes dangerously wrong. It's like watching a skydiver execute all sorts of graceful, breathtaking turns, as he appears to ignore gravity and fly on his own, only to have him smash to earth when the chute doesn't open."[2]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film four stars and commented, "It's a little amazing that established movie stars like Streep, Russell and Cher could disappear so completely into the everyday lives of these characters."[3]

David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor called the film "a fine example of Hollywood's love-hate attitude toward timely and controversial subject matter." He continued, "The movie sides with Silkwood as a character, playing up her spunk and courage while casting wry, sidelong glances at her failings. When it comes to the issues connected with her, though, the filmmakers slip and slide around, providing an escape hatch . . . for every position and opinion they offer. This makes the movie less polemical than it might have been, and a lot more wishy-washy . . . This is too bad, because on other levels Silkwood is a strong and imaginative film. Meryl Streep gives the year's most astounding performance by an actress, adding vigor and complexity to almost every scene with her endlessly inventive portrayal of the eccentric heroine. The supporting players skillfully follow her lead."[4]

Box office

The film opened in 257 theaters in the United States on December 14, 1983 and grossed $1,218,322 on its opening weekend, ranking #12 at the box office. By its seventh week of release it had expanded to 816 screens and reached #1. It eventually earned $35,615,609 in the US.[1]

Awards and nominations

DVD releases

Anchor Bay Entertainment released the film on DVD in Region 1 on June 15, 1999. Viewers had the option of anamorphic widescreen or fullscreen formats.

A Region 2 DVD was released by PT Video on April 8, 2002.

A second Region 1 DVD was released by MGM Home Entertainment on October 7, 2003. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.


External links



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