Bridges of Madison County (1995): Starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep

More than any dramatic interest, it is the prestigious talent, in front and behind the cameras, which define The Bridges of Madison County.

This schmaltzy romantic epic, based on Robert James Waller’s popular novel, which became a national sensation, leaping to the top of the best-seller by striking a chord with women (and men, too).

The script, penned by Richard LaGravenese (Fisher King), actually improves on the book, a tearjerker that divided literary critics when it was published. To make the story more involving, it is told from Francesca’s perspective. Here is a chick-flick movie that is better and more enjoyable than its source material.

Apparently, it was the idea of Spielberg, who serves as executive producer, that Clint Eastwood should direct the picture. Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood brings his seasoned experience and technical skills to the project, which had been attached to and then abandoned by Bruce Beresford.

In a typical “Western” type of role of the wanderer and reluctant lover, Eastwood plays Robert Kincaid, a travelogue photojournalist on assignment in rural Iowa and Meryl Streep is a farmer’s lonely, frustrated wife, named Francesca Johnson, who drives a mean John Deere.

A chance encounter changes both forever in this exploration of the enduring power of love, one that’s so precious that it sustains the lovers for decades, though they never meet again.

Rumor has it that biggest challenge was for Gary Palmer to make a bed hard enough and long enough to accommodate Eastwood and Streep, as plenty of scenes are set on the bed (doubles played the actors’ sex scenes).

As Francesca, Streep brings her stature and customary efficiency with accents (here Italian). Whether or not she deserved an Oscar nomination for this particular role is debatable.

The movie was popular at the box-office due to the star power, as well as the fact that it was released in the summer as counter-programming to the big, special effects ridden pictures. Another reason for its success may be the novelty of seeing two mature individuals (Eastwood was 65, Streep 46), rather than teenagers or twentysomething, cast as leads in a romantic drama.

Oscar Alert

Meryl Streep was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar in a contest that included Susan Sarandon, who won for the fact-inspired “Dead Man Walking,” Elizabeth Shue in “Leaving Las Vegas,” Sharon Stone in “Casino,” and Emma Thompson in “Sense and Sensibility.”

Credits:

Amblin/Malpaso Production

Produced by Clint Eastwood and Kathleen Kennedy
Directed by Eastwood
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese, based on the novel by Robert James Waller
Camera: Jack N. Green
Editing: Joel Cox
Music: Lennie Niehaus
Production design: Jeannine Oppenheimer
Art direction: William Arnold
Costumes: Colleen Kelsall
F/X: Steve Riley, John Frazier