The Bridges Of Madison County

on June 02, 1995 by Michael Lightcap
   Whatever tragic resonance is attained by this screen version of Robert James Waller's bestseller about a brief 1965 love affair between Iowa farmwife Francesca Johnson and National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid is due to Meryl Streep's exquisitely modulated, lived-in performance and fine supporting turns by Annie Corley and Victor Slezak as Francesca's grown children. Eastwood is charmingly likable, self-confident and good-humored, but he's miscast. He is 20 years too old, has a limited emotional range, and lacks the erotic power to generate the needed sexual chemistry with Streep.
   But Eastwood also has himself to blame as director, for making the love scenes too low-key for their own good. Instead of a profound wallop, the movie packs a quiet punch at the end, aided by a nicely played contemporary framing device that gives the drama not only its context but its themes: whether to remain tied or not to a constraining marriage, whether to search for or forget a road not taken, whether to take the risks that must be taken if life is to be anything more than passing time until death.    Starring Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Annie Corley and Victor Slezak. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Richard LaGravenese. Produced by Clint Eastwood and Kathleen Kennedy. A Warner Bros. release. Romance. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and brief strong language. Running time: 134 min.
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