So this week, someone asked, "Who is the next Clint Eastwood? Or is there one?" This same day, I had a conversation with the other writers that were on the New Orleans media tour with me about our "deserted island" movies--you know, those movies that you would take with you if you knew you were going to be stuck on a deserted island and watch again and again. Not just your favorites, but your favorite favorites. Hands down for me, The Bridges of Madison County makes this list. Two Clint Eastwood moments in one day calls for a discussion about this great movie today.
I am guaranteed to start crying during this movie--often, I start tearing up during the first scene of the movie because I know what's to come. I still yell at the television screen when she holds onto the door handle in the pivotal moment when she has to decide to stay in a boring, safe, dutiful marriage or dive into a life of passion and uncertainty with a man that makes her feel everything that is good all at once.
The screenplay was written by Richard LaGravenese (who, by the way, I just discovered also wrote P.S. I Love You, another movie on my deserted island list) based on the novel by Robert James Waller. I still haven't read the novel I'm embarrassed to say, but this movie makes me cry deep, all-consuming, life-affirming sobs. After, I am emotionally spent yet feel recommitted to love and life.
The theme of course is love, but the question is, is love always worth it? It being pain, heartache, everything you have ever known, your sanity, even your self. If this movie doesn't make you scream "YES!" then you have never been in the kind of love that camps out in every square inch of your body. Your heart feels like your lover has a hold of it physically--one hurtful word, and the grip becomes crippling; one kind word, and the hand that holds gives the heart a little reaffirming squeeze that sends your blood racing through your body, pumping giddy happiness everywhere.
One of the beautiful aspects of this script is the use of as few words as possible. Silence becomes a character in this film, at times suffocating a scene--a too-firm grip on the heart--but in others allowing the intangible yet connective forces between an exquisite Meryl Streep and a career-best (to me) Clint Eastwood to weave their powers in an inextricable way, forever rooting the two together in unexplainable ways.
Thank you Mr. LaGravenese and Mr. Waller for bringing us this film with an ending that haunts all who watch it--much like the final decision in Casablanca--hoping to never be put in the same position but smugly confident that we would be able to make the decision in favor of reckless love no matter the costs. It's satisfying sitting in the judgement seat, right?