Thursday, December 30, 2010

Francesca should have opened that door!

(What follows is a movie review I wrote on in 2002 concerning the film adaptation of Robert James Waller's book, "The Bridges of Madison County". My review was named one of the top seven for the movie out of hundreds some years later. -- DGH)


I viewed Hollywood's adaptation of Robert James Waller's "The Bridges of Madison County" last evening. I had seen the film initially some years ago and regarded it as much ado about nothing for the most part at that time.

But I was struck in this new viewing more than before by the universality of Francesca Johnson's dilemma. Perhaps maturation and recent life experiences have generated a heightened understanding and awareness on my part.

Robert Kinkaid possessed a few of the qualities that have both inspired and dogged me during my middle years.

He was a rootless writer and photographer, as well as a keen and cynical observer of the human condition. Kinkaid had been far and done much. He had seen and experienced multiple facets of life and love and possessed limitless anecdotal knowledge of the world. He offered much to Francesca in terms of sensitivity, understanding, appreciation of beauty and companionship that she would never find on an Iowa farm.

But Kinkaid lacked Middle America's major indicators of success and worthiness--roots sunk deeply in one geographic location, a home and real estate, and most importantly, a traditional Cleaver family mind set.

Francesca reluctantly opted for the Cleaver family syndrome, choosing security and safety over fascination, inspiration and love. She lived out her years with a boring Iowa pig farmer, remaining a lonely and empty woman with nothing but tattered memories of her brief encounter with Kinkaid.

Had I been writing the screenplay, I would have had her fling open that truck door and dash through the rain storm to head west with Robert Kinkaid.

For better or worse, that's the impulsive sort of decision that has governed my life more often than not.

But such actions and those who take them do not comfort the psyche of Middle America's puritanical heartland.

Though they know better from their own experiences and those of others, the majority of Americans--middle class protestant ones especially--prefer to keep their heads safely in the sand about life and the human condition, pretending still in a little house on the prairie dream world that probably never was--one that most certainly doesn't exist now.

All is well in this delusional world of make believe--one that's filled with Little League games, soccer moms, church suppers and PTO meetings. Marriage and family are still the rocks of civilization and the ostriches are "saved" and bound for Heaven. Their president, George W. Bush, is a worthy man with a commission from their God to root out homosexuality, abortion and Islam.

In my opinion, such as they dwell in the outer limits of utter darkness, living and dying without a clue about the past, the present, or the future. They're not living--they're merely existing in a state of perpetual denial, awaiting the flat line and the rude awakening that will likely follow.

Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is termed resignation is confirmed desperation."

Francesca Johnson completed her life journey in this condition of quiet desperation. I think that's a damned shame. I wanted more for her. I wanted her to go with Robert Kinkaid and seek a few years of happiness and joy while they each had the time and opportunity.

D. Grant Haynes