The Bridge to Forbidden Love (Academy Awards Week)
When The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller came out in 1992, it was THE book to read. Everyone was talking about it—with good reason. It’s a good book, a short but satisfying read. It’s a love story—an affair to remember, so to speak. In the summer of 1965 Francesca Johnson was a farm wife who meets Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer, passing through town. He’s interested in photographing the covered bridges in the area and asks Francesca for directions. When she offers to show him, there’s an instant chemistry spark that slowly ignites into full-blown passionate fireworks. Her family is out of town, which is quite convenient for them. But this isn’t just a “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am” relationship. Robert and Francesca find true love. He heaps on the romantic mush she longs for and her husband is not built for. He tells her he loves her and cinches the deal by saying things like: “In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.” Or how about: “I’m no longer sitting next to you here on the grass. You have me inside of you as a willing prisoner.” Great stuff for a lonely farm wife.
One of my friends didn’t like the fact that Francesca kept journals of their time together in a chest along with Robert’s magazine clippings, memories she clung to for the remainder of her life right under her unsuspecting husband’s nose. The story actually opens with her grown children discovering these journals containing the incredible love story after their mother had passed away. I thought it revealed Francesca’s undying love. Call me a sap, but I was moved by the book.
When the movie came out and I heard Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood were playing Francesca and Robert, I wasn’t so convinced. They just somehow didn’t seem right for the part. Even then I thought Clint was too old for the role. But they turned out to be perfect. I guess that’s why I’m not a casting director. There’s one point where Francesca sees Robert one more time in town. She’s riding in the truck with her husband who is now back. Upon seeing Robert, Francesca’s heart almost stops and she struggles not to jump out run after him. Inwardly she goes through a whirlwind of emotions while trying to keep it together outwardly. What a scene! I get teary eyed just thinking about it. Meryl was good. She was so good that in 1996, she was nominated for best actress. For once she didn’t win. She lost to Susan Sarandon for her role in Dead Man Walking. I never saw that movie, but it doesn’t matter. In my opinion Meryl Streep’s performance was Oscar-worthy.
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