Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#180: Bridges of Madison County

The word that occurs to me the moment I think about The Bridges of Madison County is 'serene.' Is there anything more serene on film than seeing Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep play 50-plus year olds in love with each other against the backdrop of the beautiful American countryside ?

Based on the book of the same name written by Robert James Waller, and adapted for the screen by Richard LaGravenese, the Eastwood-directed movie plays out like a soothing composition bathed in melody. From the first frame to the last, each visual typifies a lazy American stable life that forms the crust of the characters involved. From within though, both Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood), a National Geographic photographer and Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) a reasonably happy mother of two, have a simmering desire for each other that they're too scared to pursue for fear of social pressures. Francesca has been married for 18 odd years and is suffering the proverbial itch. Everything is too settled in her humdrum daily life for her to derive any excitement out of it. Kincaid, on the other hand, is a traveling photographer who makes friends as he goes along from one corner of the globe to another. His innocent charm and knowledge of the world is too tempting for Francesca to resist. Kincaid, a dignified vagabond in Madison County finds a reason in Francesca, to stick to a place for a change. Even as their different worlds merge in a quest for love, the stakes are too high for Francesca to walk out of a well-settled marriage. The movie is a journey into the emotions of these two characters as they jostle with the ultimate decision- how far will they go for companionship.

This is a story mostly told in flashback and if memories had a color, cinematographer Jack Green nails it. Given the non-linear narrative, editor Joel Cox rightfully gives the film's pace two different rhythms- one for the flashback and another for the present both working in unison to make this a delightful journey of a little over two hours. Clint Eastwood is magical as the nature-loving photographer who is a son of the soil in every sense of the word. It is remarkable how even as a director he doesn't given into the temptation to indulge himself as an actor instead making this a movie about the female protagonist. Meryl Streep excels in one of her most challenging roles as the faithful wife but Kincaid's passionate lover. Her yearning is captured not so much in words as in her manners and this very well might've been a role where Meryl was pushed to the boundaries of her acting skills, if there is such a thing.

The Bridges of Madison County is a warm and a touching tale of love that will go best on a Sunday afternoon with the person you love the most by your side and a vintage Pinot Noir on the table.

In any case, if you can't watch it with that one person, watch it for that one person.

Rating: 7.8/10

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