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Sadder than this very moving film are the reactions of those who found
this movie boring or too "slow." What a comment on the need for car
chases and explosions that seem so pervasive in American flicks!! One
of the reason I prefer foreign films.
"Mr and Mrs Bridge" is an amazingly accurate depiction of upper middle class lives, caught in the trap of repression and respectability. To watch the fate of Mrs Bridge (exquisitely portrayed by Joanne Woodward) as a woman trapped in a marriage to an inexpressive, career-focused man is to understand how women, even today, can lead limited, unfulfilled lives, bound up with a decisive husband and children who grow into self-absorbed adults, leaving their mother with a longing they won't or can't assuage.
Seeing the character of Mr. Bridge (another outstanding performance by Paul Newman), himself caught in the routine of his life, his sexual yearnings repressed, convinced of his correctness and respectability is a picture of the rigidity of ideas, values and prejudices rampant in our society, even in our own time.
An amazing and insight movie!!
I first saw this movie when released in 1990 and just watched it
again, partly out of curiosity as to whether i would feel
differently about it. I don't. I still see it as a movie with
all the right things going for it but just missing the mark.
The acting, writing, cinematography, etc. are all exemplary. It is, i believe, the movie's episodic structure which ultimately makes it seem rather uneventful when, in reality, the story is made up of many quite important events. An episodic structure, can work just fine, of course, but, as with most successful stories, it still needs to have a certain "build" to it in order to really satisfy. If that "build" IS here in this movie, it is so muted as to be incoherent to most viewers. Not that Mr and Mrs Bridge is not worth viewing! In fact, its thematics are well worth discussing. In my eyes, the parents represent an older, more traditional way of life on the verge of irreversible change, as personified by their children (though one or two of them eventually settle back into the groove). The country club/tornado sequence seems especially significant in light of such a reading, that a "storm" is on its way and they had better take cover. That Mr Bridge should remain steadfast in its occurence speaks volumes about his character. There are myriads of wonderful little character traits, etc., in this movie worth pondering, by the way.
While Mr Bridge is a fascinating persona, it is Mrs Bridge who, for me, remains central to the film. In fact, it might be THE major statement of the movie that this suburban woman has begun to awaken to how sheltered (stifled?) she and others like her have been. Though she does yearn for more--in a sense she really does want to be fully awakened--she never becomes more than vaguely enlightened. She realizes--even accepts with a great deal of comfort--how "lucky" they are to have lived such a privileged life. Though there have been many victims of female discontentedness (e.g. her friend Grace), she and many like her have adapted quite well to their mode of survival and comfortable living. It simply means sacrificing all of those crazy dreams that artistic types pursue, not to mention sacrificing passion--real passion--for life.
There are many significant instances to underscore Mrs Bridge's circumstance as a woman dependent on her man, but none better, perhaps, than the at the end of the movie as a pampered victim in a car: "hello? hello? is there anybody there?"...indeed!
This is definitely a nitch film that will not appeal to a mass audience. It's a rather uneventful story of a mid-western upper class WASP family, and the cultural milieu of their times. Set in the time frame of pre-World War II America, it is a series of vignettes of various characters' lives. Everything about the production is first class; from the acting to the lush settings. This is a film for those who prefer subtlety over action. This ain't a popcorn film, it is a movie for a quiet time where you can sit back and watch a serious character study. Too, a knowledge of the history of the time would be nice -- but not essential. I'll give it a solid *8*.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
India and Walter Bridge (Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman) are a
conservative, middle-age, upper middle class couple who live in a
perfect, mid-western neighborhood with a black housemaid, Harriet, an
eagle scout son (Sean Leonard), and two college-age daughters, one who
wants to marry a plumber's son instead of finish college, and the other
who wants to make it in arts and literature in New York (Kiera
Sedgewick). Their values are solid, their views are typical of the
period, and appropriate for the kind of existence that was typical
American fairy tale 30s society.
Learning of sex from a manual, Mrs. Bridges is uneasy to have to explain the facts of life to her son, her daughter on her wedding day, and probably, Mr. Bridge, who loves his wife but can not express his love in that old fashion stoic male way. Mr. Bridge is forthright, honorable, and would never think his actions are anything but above board. He simply never considers there is any other world than the ordered one made of his values, opinions, and standards of propriety. He would never consider his daughter would have an abortion, or even that she would engage in sex outside marriage, nor that his faithful secretary, Julia have a personal life and feelings for him after 20 years of employment.
Mrs. Bridge is a housewife, not homemaker, a house wife. Her entire world revolves around the Betty Crocker inspired recipes cooked from scratch for her husband, and served when he walks through the door. She is delighted to see her spouse arrive home every night, is too cheery and inquisitive about her son's new lower class girlfriend, "Paquita," and has never given deep thought a seconds worry. She lives by rules set down for women by her husband. Even when he is trying to explain to her the value of stocks he has laid aside for her future "contingent" on his death, she is girlishly distracted with a small pocket watch that recalls their courting days sitting on the veranda, and verses he too remembers he'd recited to her then. She is grateful for all her husband has given her. He is respectful of her love and devotion.
Contrasted with Mrs. Bridges is her close friend Grace (Blythe Danner), a nervous, high spirited and unconventional woman who fights with the hypocrisy of their existence and is a banker's wife. Loud, drinking too much, and setting fire to a car at a party, suicidal Grace is at odds with rigid expectations of her class and society. Slowly loosing her grip she spirals downward which mystifies India who is unable to fathom why she is so dissatisfied and tormented. To Walter, Grace was a critical woman and is condemned as unfit. Her suicide is damaging to her husband in his eyes, and thus, she is worthy of his scorn. To Walter she was unsuitable, but for India, she was beloved and a troubled best friend.
A wonderful story of changing social values, and a family in transition, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge is an opportunity to showcase the fantastic performances of the senior citizen, Paul and Joanne Newman, thespians whose early years were as glamorous as Brad and Anglelina today. They are excellent in the roles of individuals likely the age of their own parents, and they present their characters as both sympathetic and tragic. Unable to comprehend the situation of her own dependency, India Bridges is trapped in her own marriage, unable to counsel her own headstrong daughter whose marriage is failing, she is shocked to learn she is seen as a failure by her children. Character, morals, and proper introductions have no place in their 40s WWII era, yet India is never aware how old fashion her ideas have become to her children's lives.
This film is based on two utterly unique novels by Evan S. Connell called
'Mrs. Bridge' and a companion novel published some years later, 'Mr.
Bridge'. In 'Mrs. Bridge' Connell presents events in the title character's
life and marriage, always from her heartbreakingly naive perspective, yet
managing to convey the true nature of the events at the same time. This
brilliant technique results in a portrait that is as much comic as it is
pathetic. In 'Mr. Bridge' the author presents the same marriage, this time
from Mr. Bridge's perspective, a much less comic, though no less tormented
The film fails to find an equivalent technique to present the parallel perspectives of the novel, those of the two main characters as well as an omnicient, often ironic narrator.
Nevertheless, I think the film could have succeeded more than it does if it were not for the misconceived role of Mrs. Bridge. First of all Joanne Woodward is too old for the part by twenty years or more and appears more like the children's grandmother than their mother. Secondly, she, and the author and director, create a highly emotional, always-on-the-verge-of-tears character that totally misses the central theme of the novel which is that Mrs. Bridge is completely out of touch with her emotional self. Her unhappiness lies deep beneath the surface of her everyday life. She copes by either doing as she is told by her husband, or by resorting to platitudes or the values of her middle class upbringing. In one of the first scenes of the film, Mrs. Bridge bursts into tears in her husband's presence and expresses insights about their marriage that are completely beyond the capability of the character in the novel. This robs the film of any chance of catching the ironic tone of the novels.
Paul Newman is perfect as Mr. Bridge, but again without the interior perspective, much of the essence of the novel is lost. The other actors are all fine, especially Blythe Danner. The scene in which Danner tries to explain to Mrs. Bridge the depth of her unhappiness and Mrs. Bridge can only respond with bromides and offers of tea gives a hint of what the film could have been.
The film is certainly a noble failure and worth seeing. But if you want a completely brilliant reading experience, get the novels.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, in addition to the storied couple (in real life) playing Mr. and Mrs. Bridge--I thought the story line excellent. I actually grew up in Kansas City not long after the time period in the film and my family lived much as these people. The film's "slowness" represents that time---Paul Newman's close and steady pace, his awareness and lack of awareness of the world around him are intriguing. Joanne Woodward and Blythe Danner represent to very different types of women (of the time) but gives the viewer the sense that they are both trapped, one willingly and the other not so willingly. I weep for the Mother (Joanne Woodward) who wants to be close to her grown children but is too limited in her own world to really know how. The children are at fault in many cases, but it's sad nonetheless. The "wedged" car in the garage door opening sums up the Mother's inability to control her surroundings and the very fact that the husband was angry when he arrived home only underlines this fact. Thank God he seems to have loved her!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS! I always love Merchant Ivory films and this is no exception.
Sure, the movie is quite slow but the acting of Paul Newman, Joanne
Woodward and Blythe Danner is superb. Although Paul Newman's character
is quite stern, he is not unloving. He just doesn't know how to express
his feelings. When he thought that he was very sick and could die soon,
he made sure that he set his estate in order and showed his wife the
important papers she needs to be aware of. He wanted to make sure she
would be all right. He also talks to his son and tells him the extent
of his illness (which he conceals from his wife--he doesn't want her to
worry!) and asks his son to take care of his mother in case he becomes
very ill and possibly die. He also surprises Mrs. Bridge with a cruise
to Europe during a tornado alert! He remains cool while a tornado is
raging outside the hotel where he and his wife are dining.I realize
that his reactions are based on his priorities...he might die soon and
what's a tornado to do with what he wants to accomplish at this very
moment? This is a lovely film about family relationships and how
families interacted then--we see similar values (love of family,
concern for children's future) but different ways of living it out.
Mr. Bridge doesn't quite like that his daughter will be marrying a plumber's son (not good enough for her!) and he gives his other daughter $1,000 to start a career in acting in New York. The best adjective for him is "reticent." Mrs. Bridge on the other hand, is such a naive and kind-hearted person. She sees the bright things in life although she is quite unhappy because she feels her husband doesn't love her enough.
If you happen to like European films and how they flesh out relationships, you will love this film.
Films produced under the Merchant/Ivory banner are, as a general rule, respectable, literate, and often more than a little bit dull. But here's an exception (to the last rule, at least): an intimate, snapshot diary of an ordinary, middle-class, mid-American couple, played by the off-screen couple of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Ruth Jhabvala's sensitive adaptation of the twin novels by Evan Connell is highlighted by her customary wit and attention to detail, with Newman and Woodward improving on the title roles by adding in their performances subtle shades of character which can't be written into any script. The episodic, slice-of-life structure doesn't allow for any dramatic momentum, and there isn't much of a message beyond the observation that native mid-westerners are emotionally repressed, but under James Ivory's typically graceful direction (and with the help of a first-rate supporting cast) it's an uncommonly rich film, full of privileged moments.
"Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," directed by James Ivory, from 1990, is the story
of one American family that represents many of that era, showing them
in the period of 1937 until just after the war.
The Bridge family is upper middle class. Walter and India (Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward) have three children: the aspiring actress Ruth (Kyra Sedgwick, so young you can't believe it); Carolyn (Margaret Welsh), and Douglas (Robert Sean Leonard, another baby face). Walter Bridge is a conservative man, one who can't and doesn't show his feelings, an excellent businessman, by the book, and seen today, very old-fashioned, almost Victorian in his attitudes. He loves and respects his wife. India is a sweet, naive woman who doesn't know much of the world, but is exposed to it through her high-strung, independent-thinking friend (Blythe Danner) and her art classes. India takes her husband's opinions and does what he wants. The few times she puts forth other ideas, she is shot down and accepts what he says.
When it comes to their children, both of them are out of it. Walter is a fair man, and when Ruth wants to go to New York, he allows it under certain conditions; when Carolyn wants to marry someone beneath their class, he hears the young man out and gives his blessing; and when Douglas wants to join the Air Force, he counsels his son to stick with his education until he's drafted.
This doesn't mean that Walter and India know anything about their children's' private lives or the sex they're having. Walter is far too rigid to consider such a thing, and India is too naive.
This is certainly a picture of a different time, where the older generation didn't give their emotions much play, when women went to lunch, took art classes, and everything they did revolved around their husbands, and when the man's word was law. Yet we can see the beginnings of change around the edges in their children's' lives of what's coming.
The acting is marvelous, particularly from Paul Newman, who at 65 was still gloriously handsome; and from Blythe Danner, who belonged, perhaps, in a bigger city than Kansas City and among a more liberal crowd. I see where Joanne Woodward's performance has been criticized here; some of it, I gather, was because of her age and also because the character says some things considered out of character as compared to the books on which the film is based. Still, she has the sweetness, the caring, and displays the narrow thought of the character.
If the film is slow, it's because of the time period in which the film is set. You sat in the living room in the evening and listened to Nelson Eddy on the radio; you went to see A Star is Born with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March; it was a more leisurely life and a quieter one. Interestingly, it was a time period in which great self-analysis and deep thought could have emerged, but it wouldn't be until after the war that psychiatry (compared to astrology by Walter), women in the workplace, and changes in morality came into vogue.
Today we live so differently - it wasn't all it was cracked up to be back then, and life today sure isn't all it's cracked up to be now. A film like this does make one long for just a few of the old ways in terms of lifestyle perhaps - the simplicity, the sense of family, but in its repression and views of women, no way.
Mr.&Mrs. Bridge is an interesting character study of a pair of a
typical married couple during the years before our entry into World War
II. The film does provide a good insight into the American mindset of a
Republican oriented couple of the period, hardly the political
orientation of its two stars.
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward are the Bridges with two daughters and a son who are all reaching adulthood. Kyra Sedgwick is the rebellious Bohemian type who just wants to shake the dust of her conservative roots and fly. Maureen Collins wants to get married and she makes a disastrous choice of a husband. But that is partly to get away from her father's ideas. And son Robert Sean Leonard is an Eagle Scout and apparently a chip of dad's old block. But he thinks there is more to life than his father's ideas. He's looking to join the army.
The film netted Joanne Woodward an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and she is the most interesting character in the film. She longs to recapture her youth when Newman was apparently a far more passionate individual than the stuffed shirt lawyer. She tries to shake Newman out of his smug complacency, but ultimately fails.
The Bridges are an interesting pair, but ultimately not very satisfying. I have to applaud the characterizations which are first rate, but this story which seemed really not to have a point just left me cold.
However fans of Newman and Woodward will like Mr.&Mrs. Bridge.
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