The Bridges of Madison County
I suppose it was a reaction to the amazing success of the little novel, one of the best-selling books of the 20th century, that put me off this for so long. I still haven’t read the book, and probably won’t, but I realize now that I should have trusted the director and co-star, Clint Eastwood, and his leading lady, Meryl Streep, because it’s a much better movie than I expected. I’m sure you know the story: Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl. That simple formula (or its comedy equivalent, where you just reverse the last two phrases) has been the basis of thousands of books and movies, and some of them were even good. This is one of them. Partly because it deals with older people, no Romeo and Juliet here. And partly because of the casting. Clint does some of his best acting work, and his minimalist directing style is put to great use. Meryl uses yet another of her pitch-perfect accents, this one just right for an Italian woman who has lived 20 years in Iowa. My guess is that the story was improved greatly by the addition of a framing device whereby we learn of it after her death, as her children learn for the first time of Mom’s 4-day affair and the love of her life. The son, angry and judgmental at first, comes to realize that he never really knew his mother, and that she gave up everything for them. The children’s story was at least as moving as the story of Mom and the loner photographer for National Geographic. I think it might have been a wee bit too long, but this was no Spielberg drawn-out sniffle-fest, but honest emotion shown by two of the best in the business. Clint is 82 years old now, and I will sure hate it when we lose him. I think he’s one of the top 5 or so directors in America.