The Bridges Of Madison County

Clint Eastwood resurrects the star system, the Hollywood love story, and middle-aged romance, but despite all his craft and sincerity, he and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese can’t quite turn Robert James Waller’s cardboard best-seller into flesh and bone. The one big exception is Meryl Streep’s beautiful and fresh performance as an Iowa housewife resigned to a disappointing life. Eastwood plays a National Geographic photographer who happens along while her family is gone, a fantasy figure who seldom adds up to anything more than his sketchy profile. As long as these two are on-screen one can forget the treacle that brought them theretheir first moment of physical contact is exquisite and unforgettableand the film makes a plausible conservative argument for adultery as a preserver of marriage. This self-styled relic (1995) only fitfully transcends the Reader’s Digest aura it seems so eager to honor and justify, but it’s earnest and it has the unfashionable courage to be slow. With Annie Corley, Victor Slezak, Jim Haynie, and a wonderful jazz sound track featuring singer Johnny Hartman. 135 min. (JR)

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