|The Bridges of Madison County|
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Screenplay by||Richard LaGravenese|
|Based on||The Bridges of Madison County|
by Robert James Waller
|Music by||Lennie Niehaus|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Edited by||Joel Cox|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$182 million|
The Bridges of Madison County is a 1995 American romantic drama film based on the 1992 best-selling novel of the same name by Robert James Waller. It was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also starred in it with Meryl Streep. The screenplay was adapted by Richard LaGravenese. Kathleen Kennedy was co-producer. It was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Malpaso Productions, and distributed by Warner Bros. Entertainment.
The film is set in 1965, featuring Italian war bride, Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), who lives with her husband and two children on their Iowa farm. That year she meets National Geographic photojournalist, Robert Kincaid (Eastwood), who comes to Madison County to photograph its historic covered bridges. With Francesca's family away for a short trip, the couple have an intense, four-day love affair. The film earned $182 million worldwide and was well received by critics. Streep was nominated in 1996 for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
In the present, adult siblings Michael and Carolyn Johnson arrive at their recently deceased mother's Iowa farmhouse to settle her estate. While sorting through Francesca's will and safe deposit box, which contains a key, they are shocked by their mother's request to be cremated and have her ashes scattered from Roseman Covered Bridge. This superseded what they knew were her previous arrangements for burial next to her late husband, Richard. Michael initially resists, but Carolyn discovers unknown photos of their mother taken at another covered bridge, and letters to Francesca from a man named Robert Kincaid. Her children find a locked hope chest containing three notebooks, a National Geographic magazine featuring Madison County's covered wooden bridges, old cameras, and other mementos. The magazine includes a photo of Kincaid.
In the main part of the film in 1965, Francesca, a WWII Italian war bride, meets Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photojournalist on assignment to photograph the county's historic bridges. Looking for the Roseman Bridge, he had stopped by the Johnson farm to ask for directions. Francesca rode with him to show him the way. Their subsequent affair occurred over four days, when her husband and children were away at the Illinois State Fair.
Francesca's three notebooks detail the affair and its lasting influence on both her and Robert. They had fallen deeply in love and nearly ran away together. Francesca, although confined to a passionless marriage, decided against abandoning her teenage children and loyal husband. Robert, moved by their brief encounter, found renewed meaning in his life and true calling as an artist. Francesca's memories helped sustain her through her remaining years on the farm.
After her husband's death, Francesca tried to contact Robert again, but he had left National Geographic, and she was unsuccessful. Later she learned that Robert died about three years after her husband, and left his belongings to her. His ashes were scattered from Roseman Bridge.
In the present, Michael and Carolyn are deeply moved by their mother's story, as they are struggling in their own marriages. They find new direction to their individual lives. They scatter their mother's ashes at the covered bridge.
-- Clint Eastwood on Robert Kincaid
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. Spielberg first asked Sydney Pollack to direct, 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. 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. 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. When Spielberg decided not to direct, 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.
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.
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." It was filmed on location in Madison County, Iowa, including the town of Winterset, and in the Dallas County town of Adel.
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.
The Bridges of Madison County opened theatrically on June 2, 1995 in 1,805 venues. It earned $10,519,257 in its opening weekend, ranking number two in the North American box office, behind Casper (which was in its second weekend and coincidentally features Eastwood in a cameo). At the end of its run, the film grossed $71,516,617 domestically and $110,500,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $182,016,617.
Rotten Tomatoes reports a score of 90% based on 58 reviews, with an average rating of 7.39/10. The site's consensus states: "Sentimental, slow, schmaltzy, and very satisfying, The Bridges of Madison County finds Clint Eastwood adapting a bestseller with heft, wit, and grace." On Metacritic, the film has a 66 out of 100 rating, based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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."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."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: