The Bridges of Madison County (film)

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The Bridges of Madison County
The Bridges Of Madison County.jpg
Original poster designed by Bill Gold.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Clint Eastwood
Kathleen Kennedy
Screenplay by Richard LaGravenese
Based on The Bridges of Madison County 
by Robert James Waller
Starring Clint Eastwood
Meryl Streep
Music by Lennie Niehaus
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Editing by Joel Cox
Studio Malpaso Productions
Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • June 2, 1995 (1995-06-02)
Running time 135 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22 million[1][2]
Box office $182,016,617

The Bridges of Madison County is a 1995 American romantic drama film based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Robert James Waller.[3] It was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Malpaso Productions, and distributed by Warner Bros. Entertainment. The film was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood with Kathleen Kennedy as co-producer and the screenplay was adapted by Richard LaGravenese. The film stars Eastwood and Meryl Streep. Streep received an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination in 1996 for her performance in the film.

Plot[edit]

In the present, siblings Michael and Carolyn arrive at the Iowa farmhouse of Francesca Johnson, their recently deceased mother, to see about the settlement of their mother's estate. As they go through the contents of her safe deposit box and the will, they are baffled to discover that their mother left very specific instructions that her body be cremated and her ashes thrown off the nearby Roseman Covered Bridge, which is not in accordance with the burial arrangements they had known from their parents. Michael initially refuses to comply, while Carolyn discovers a set of photos of her mother and a letter. She manages to convince Michael to set aside his initial reaction so they can read the documents she has discovered. Once alone, they go through a series of letters from a man named Robert Kincaid to their mother. The siblings find their way to a chest where their mother left a letter, a series of diaries, and other mementos.

They discover that in 1965, their mother, an Italian war bride, had a four-day affair with Robert Kincaid, a photographer who had come to Madison County, Iowa, to shoot a photographic essay for National Geographic on the covered bridges in the area.[4] The affair took place while her husband and children were away at the Illinois State Fair. The story in the diaries also reveals the impact the affair had on Francesca's and Robert’s lives, since they almost elope, but she intervenes at the last minute in consideration of a bigger picture that includes the consequences on the lives of her children and husband, while he finds meaning and his true calling as an artist. The story also has deep consequences on the lives of Michael and Carolyn, both of whom are facing marital issues, but their mother’s story helps them to find a sense of direction in their lives. At the end, the Johnson siblings comply with their mother’s request.

Cast[edit]

  • Clint Eastwood as Robert Kincaid
  • Meryl Streep as Francesca Johnson
  • Annie Corley as Carolyn Johnson
  • Victor Slezak as Michael Johnson
  • Jim Haynie as Richard Johnson
  • Sarah Kathryn Schmitt as Young Carolyn
  • Christopher Kroon as Young Michael
  • Phyllis Lyons as Betty
  • Debra Monk as Madge
  • Richard Lage as Lawyer Peterson
  • Michelle Benes as Lucy Redfield

Pre-production[edit]

"I've been that guy a little bit, going off by myself years ago in a pickup truck into Nevada, scouting locations for High Plains Drifter. But I didn't stop off with any housewives while doing that."

— Clint Eastwood on Robert Kincaid[2]

Amblin Entertainment, a production company founded by Steven Spielberg, bought the film rights to Waller's novel for $25,000 in late 1991, before its publication—by the time of the film's release the novel sold 9.5 million copies worldwide.[2] Spielberg first asked Sydney Pollack to direct the film, who got Kurt Luedtke to draft the first version of the adaptation but then bowed out; Ronald Bass was brought in by Kathleen Kennedy and Spielberg to work on the script, but they were unsatisfied with the results.[2] But a third draft by Richard LaGravenese was liked by Eastwood, who quite early had been cast for the male lead, and by Spielberg, who liked LaGravenese's version enough to consider making Bridges his next film after Schindler's List, which was in post-production at the time.[2] Both men liked that LaGravenese's script presented the story from Francesca's point of view; Spielberg then had LaGravenese introduce the framing device of having Francesca's adult children discover and read her diaries.[2] When Spielberg decided not to direct the film, he then brought in Bruce Beresford, who got Alfred Uhry to draft another version of the script; when Warner Bros., Spielberg, and Eastwood all preferred LaGravenese's draft, Beresford dropped out.[2]

Waller championed Isabella Rossellini to play Francesca; she was a "strong contender" in a list that also included Anjelica Huston, Jessica Lange, Mary McDonnell, Cher, and Susan Sarandon. But despite Spielberg's initial reluctance, Eastwood had advocated Meryl Streep for the role from the beginning.[2]

Production[edit]

Principal photography took 42 days, ending on November 1, 1994, ten days ahead of Eastwood's 52-day schedule; Eastwood filmed it chronologically from Francesca's point of view, "because it was important to work that way. We were two people getting to know each other, in real time, as actors and as the characters."[2] It was filmed on location in Madison County, including the town of Winterset, and in the Dallas County town of Adel.[1] The Bell's Mills Bridge, located in Westmoreland County (Pennsylvania), was also a filming location.

Post-production[edit]

The MPAA ratings board initially gave the film an "R" rating, for the line "Or should we just fuck on the linoleum one last time?", a line of dialogue spoken sarcastically by Francesca; Eastwood appealed, and the rating was reduced to a PG-13.[2]

Reception[edit]

In the United States, The Bridges of Madison County grossed $10.5 million during its first weekend in theaters,[2] and a total of more than $70 million.[5]

It received critical acclaim upon its initial release, and has a score of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.[6] According to Janet Maslin, "Clint Eastwood, director and alchemist, has transformed The Bridges of Madison County into something bearable—no, something even better. Limited by the vapidity of this material while he trims its excesses with the requisite machete, Mr. Eastwood locates a moving, elegiac love story at the heart of Mr. Waller's self-congratulatory overkill. The movie has leanness and surprising decency, and Meryl Streep has her best role in years. Looking sturdy and voluptuous in her plain housedress (the year is 1965), Ms. Streep rises straight out of "Christina's World" to embody all the loneliness and fierce yearning Andrew Wyeth captured on canvas. And yet, despite the Iowa setting and the emphasis on down-home Americana, Mr. Eastwood's Bridges of Madison County has a European flavor. Its pace is unhurried, which is not the same as slow. It respects long silences and pays attention to small details. It sustains an austere tone and staves off weepiness until the last reel. It voices musings that would definitely sound better in French."[7] Richard Corliss said Eastwood is the "most reticent of directors—where the book ogles, the film discreetly observes—and, here, the courtliest of stars....As scripted by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King), the Madison County movie has a slightly riper theme than the book's. It is about the anticipation and consequences of passion—the slow dance of appraisal, of waiting to make a move that won't be rejected, of debating what to do when the erotic heat matures into love light. What is the effect of an affair on a woman who has been faithful to her husband, and on a rootless man who only now realizes he needs the one woman he can have but not hold?" Corliss concludes "Madison County is Eastwood's gift to women: to Francesca, to all the girls he's loved before—and to Streep, who alchemizes literary mawkishness into intelligent movie passion."[8]

The film ranked 90 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions list, and tied with Goodbye South, Goodbye and Carlito's Way as the best film of the 1990s in a poll by Cahiers du cinéma.[9]

Accolades[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hughes, p.110
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Thompson, Anne (June 16, 1995). "Bridge on the River Cry". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  3. ^ Variety film review; May 22, 1995.
  4. ^ "The Bridges of Madison County". Madison County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  5. ^ Hughes, p.112
  6. ^ The Bridges of Madison County at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 2, 1995). "Love Comes Driving Up the Road, and in Middle Age, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  8. ^ Corliss, Richard (June 5, 1995). "When Erotic Heat Turns Into Love Light". Time. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  9. ^ Johnson, Eric. "Cahiers du cinéma". Critics Lists (Mist Driven Enterprises). Caltech Alumni Association. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]