random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

DVD REVIEW: The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2005) **

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2005) big poster


PG (for thematic elements, some disturbing images and some sensuality)
2 hrs. 4 min.
written by: Mary McGuckian, Thornton Wilder (novel)
produced by: Michael Cowan, Samuel Hadida, Garret McGuckian, Mary McGuckian, & Denise O' Neil
directed by: Mary McGuckian


I wanted to like this movie. Really. As soon as I saw the cast of Robert DeNiro, Gabriel Byrne, Kathy Bates, Harvey Keitel, & F. Murray Abraham, I thought surely this will be good. I had heard about it and saw it on imdb many times as "in production." Yet, I never saw a release date. I think it may have had a short life in the theater around June 2005, but I'm not sure. So, I then saw it sitting there on the shelf at the video store (yeah, I still go to video stores) and it looked promising.

The movie is based on Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that tells the story of a rickety old bridge (think "Temple of Doom"-only worse) in the early-1700's that has spanned a deep gorge in Peru for ages. When the bridge suddenly collapses--plunging five people to their deaths--the tragedy causes a wave of superstition that engulfs the villagers as they believe they are destined for continued misfortune. Only Brother Juniper (Byrne), who witnessed their tragic demise, can find the connections to divine intervention that will quell the townspeople's fears. Brother Juniper stands before the Archbishop of Peru (De Niro) and the Viceroy of Peru (Abraham) and poses the question as to whether the incident was an act of God or just a simple accident.

Sounds interesting, right? A good mystery perhaps? Boring is more like it! The costumes, on location filming in Spain, and music by veteran composer Lalo Shifrin were amazing. But, man what a snoozer! How could it be so with such fine actors, though? I dunno. I'm sure the book is better. Coulda been poor adapting or editing or even, perhaps, miscasting. But, half the time I had no clue who was who and/or what was going on.

The idea of investigating the lives of these five people is interesting. But, it turns out the characters were not all that interesting. Many of the characters like the Viceroy or the Archbishop fell flat. Could be cuz DeNiro was just not a decent fit or that Abraham was phoning it in. The only characters somewhat interesting to me were the harlequin Uncle Pio (Keitel) for the complexities of love he showed and The Marquesa (Bates) who is starving for the love of her estranged daughter. Overall though, I felt like I should care more about these characters than I did.

I found out that this was actually a remake of a 1946 film of the same name. There was also a 1958 television film. If you have time to really sit down and concentrate for some uninterrupted viewing and you like period films with great costumes....check it out. It seemed to me that what can be connected and learned from the five people who died is that they were the only five characters who were true to the power of love. It's a classic romantic idea but still....boring when there's no investment.

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