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Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Annie Corley, Victor Slezak, Jim Haynie, Sarah Kathryn Schmitt, Phyllis Lyons, Debra Monk, Christopher Kroon
Writing Credits:
Robert James Waller (novel), Richard LaGravenese

The film adaptation of Robert James Waller's wildly popular, bestselling novel. The story takes place in 1965, in the farmlands of Iowa, where bored, middle-aged Italian housewife Francesca has just sent her two kids and husband away to the state fair. Shortly thereafter she encounters Robert Kincaid, a mysterious, rugged, "National Geographic" photographer, on assignment taking pictures of Iowa's covered bridges. The two are immediately attracted to each other, and when Francesca invites Robert back to her home, they begin a romantic, sensual, illicit affair that lasts over the next few days. For Francesca, this is the first time in years that she's experienced passion in her life, and she realizes that maybe she's found her true love. Robert feels the same way, and shortly before her family returns home, asks Francesca to run off with him. Francesca now must make an important decision - one that will affect the rest of her life and could leave her with many regrets ...

Box Office:
$22 million.
Domestic Gross
$70.960 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 5/6/2008

• Audio Commentary with Editor Joel Cox and Director of Photography Jack N. Green
• “An Old-Fashioned Love Story: Making The Bridges of Madison County” Featurette
• Music Video
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Bridges Of Madison County: Deluxe Edition (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 23, 2008)

Since Robert James Waller’s novel The Bridges of Madison County sold approximately 97 jillion copies, it became inevitable that Hollywood would adapt it for the big screen. However, they wanted to find a way to lure in guys in addition to the book’s predominantly female audience. How did they attempt that? By the presence of Clint Eastwood as star and director. If Bridges was worthy of a man’s man like Clint, then maybe the flick would be worth a look for the XY part of the viewing public.

I don’t know how well that experiment worked. Bridges made $70 million, a figure that landed the flick in that netherworld between hit and flop. It didn’t live up to blockbuster expectations, but it also failed to fall into the depths that would make it a bomb.

Which is probably what this lousy, tedious movie deserved. After the death of Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), her adult children Carolyn (Annie Corley) and Michael (Victor Slezak) discover her personal effects in a safe deposit box. Most unsettling to them, they find love letters between Francesca and another man – ie, not their father. From there, the flick hops back to 1965 and shows Francesca’s affair.

Italian-born housewife Francesca stays at home while her husband Richard (Jim Haynie) and two teen kids (Sarah Kathryn Schmitt and Christopher Kroon) go off to the state fair for a few days. She loves her family but she feels bored by her mundane rural lifestyle. National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Eastwood) comes to Madison County, Iowa, to shoot the region’s covered bridges. They meet when he stops by her house to ask for directions to one of these bridges.

Francesca takes him to the bridge he seeks and they connect right off the bat. Of course, Francesca initially resists her romantic urges, but she gives in to them before too long. The flick follows their relationship over the course of their four days together.

Although I may be a guy, that doesn’t mean I’m totally averse to romances. When those films provide interesting characters or captivating situations, I can buy into them. Heck, I can border on being swept away under the best of circumstances.

At no point does Bridges veer into those circumstances. It really takes its own sweet time to get going. First we wait quite a while to even flash back to 1965, and even once we get there, the movie develops at an exceedingly deliberate pace.

On one hand, I like this idea. Too many movies feel desperate to rush, rush, rush, so they fail to develop characters beyond basic archetypes. Eastwood allows Bridges to push along at a much more leisurely pace, and in theory, I appreciate that.

In theory. In reality, Bridges progresses at such a pokey pace that it puts off the viewer. It occasionally feels like the cinematic equivalent of watching paint dry; so little happens that it becomes tough to invest in the characters or situations because we’re too darned bored.

Bridges mistakes extended character development for good character development. Although it offers tons of time for us to get to know Kincaid and Francesca as real people, they still feel like one-dimensional stereotypes. Kincaid remains the globe hopping free spirit, while Francesca continues as the bored, repressed housewife. By the film’s end, they may become a little more full than that, but not by enough to make us care.

Both Eastwood and Streep seem perfectly adequate in their roles. Neither adds anything to their parts, but neither harms the film, either. Granted, the tale is so dull that I don’t know what they could’ve done to improve or hurt Bridges anyway, but I certainly can’t complain about their work.

Well, maybe I can gripe a little, if just because we expect more from two such notable actors. When a flick pairs performers like Streep and Eastwood, the audience expects something memorable. That doesn’t occur, as they fail to demonstrate real chemistry together.

Going into Bridges, I wondered if I might find something to excuse the essential idiocy and hypocrisy of its premise. I understand why a tale like this exists. Plain Jane housewife in the midst of a boring marriage gets swept away by an exotic stranger who develops a passion for her even though she’s awfully ordinary. Obviously that fantasy works for skillions of women, but that doesn’t make it any less moronic. The fantasy seems particularly artificial because it’s supposed to come across as real. It doesn’t, and that makes the result silly.

As for the hypocrisy, Bridges suffers from the same double-standard that turned The English Patient into such an insufferable piece of work. As far as I can tell, Richard is a good man who works hard to run a stable household. In Romance World, that’s a sin since he’s not exciting and dynamic.

Because of that, it’s A-OK that Francesca cheats on it. We find exceedingly little in the way of guilt or regret because Robert represents Francesca’s One True Love. That means there’s nothing wrong with her infidelity according to The Double Standard of Romance World.

If Bridges reversed the roles and had a guy cheat on his wife, all the women in the audience would riot. That’s not allowed, but it’s perfectly fine for the woman to betray her husband because it’s sooooo romantic! Blech.

All of this adds up to an awfully dull experience. Maybe the novel boasts pleasures absent from the movie. I doubt it, as I imagine the book is as bad – and probably worse – than the movie, but all I know is that the cinematic Bridges is a terrible bore.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

The Bridges of Madison County appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Apparently this transfer provides the first-ever widescreen release of Bridges, but that doesn’t mean it provides a strong widescreen presentation.

Honestly, the flick usually looked pretty mediocre. Sharpness generally seemed decent to good, but I thought the movie could become a little iffy at times. Though I suspect some of the mild softness was intentional to suit the nostalgic love story, I still thought the image was a little too ill-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. A smattering of light source flaws cropped up, though. I witnessed sporadic examples of specks and marks, and digital artifacts gave the flick a slightly spotty look.

As for the colors of Bridges, the flick went with a golden, sun-dappled look. Though the hues showed acceptable delineation, I felt they were a bit less vivid than they should have been. The tones demonstrated acceptable clarity but not much more. Flesh tones tended to be a bit pinkish. Blacks were reasonably dense, while shadows showed fair definition. At no point did the transfer flop, but it never really excelled, either.

Don’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Bridges, as it provided the kind of low-key material that made sense for a romantic drama. The soundfield remained relentlessly subdued. The score showed good stereo delineation, while effects emphasized general ambience. This wasn’t a movie with any slam-bang sequences, so environmental elements carried the day. These occasionally added some minor life to the flick, but not much.

Placement of effects was a little too “hard” for my liking. Those elements tended to be firmly in one speaker or the other, so they didn’t feel particularly natural. Surround usage was limited to the occasional buzzing bug, barking dog or thunderclap; this wasn’t a soundscape you’d use to show off your home theater.

No issues with audio quality materialized. Speech always remained natural and concise, as the lines were easily intelligible and free from edginess. Music and effects were both quite subdued but they seemed fine. Though neither stood out as demonstrative or memorable, they filled out the track in an acceptable manner. Nothing here excelled, but it didn’t need to do so for such a quiet flick.

A smattering of extras fill out the DVD. We start with an audio commentary from editor Joel Cox and director of photography Jack N. Green, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. In addition to the expected notes about editing and cinematography, they cover sets and locations, working with Eastwood, cast and performances,

It’s too bad that Eastwood continues to refuse to record commentaries for his movies, but Cox and Green compensate well. They offer a great picture of what it’s like to work on an Eastwood flick, and they flesh out quite a few aspects of the production. I worried that this would be a tedious track with a narrow focus, but instead it proves to offer a fine examination of the flick.

Next comes a featurette called An Old-Fashioned Love Story: Making The Bridges of Madison County. This 29-minute and 33-second piece mixes movie shots, behind the scenes bits, and interviews with Cox, Green, actor/director Clint Eastwood, producer Kathleen Kennedy, screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, production designer Jeannine Oppewall, and actors Meryl Streep, Jim Haynie, Victor Slezak, and Annie Corley. They talk about the source novel and its adaptation, how Eastwood joined the production, cast, characters and performances, Iowa sets and locations, cinematography and Eastwood’s style as director, editing and music, and a few other aspects of the production.

Of course, it’s great to find Eastwood and Streep here, but they’re not the only reason this becomes a good program. It covers the important aspects of the flick’s creation in a stimulating manner and moves well. It doesn’t repeat too much from the commentary, so it adds a lot of new information. This turns into an enjoyable and useful piece.

In addition to the theatrical trailer for Bridges, we find a music video for “Doe Eyes”. This simply runs shots from the movie over one of its musical themes. It’s incredibly dull.

When I see a flick as boring as The Bridges of Madison County, I’m tempted to read the source novel. The book was such a huge success that I find it tough to imagine how it could produce a movie with so little to intrigue us. The DVD offers mediocre picture and audio along with a couple of nice supplements. Overall, this is a decent release for a weak movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4594 Stars Number of Votes: 37
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