Director Clint Eastwood’s The Bridges of Madison County (A) is a sensitive portrait of middle-aged romance, brought to sumptuous life by a sensitive artist. Who would have guessed a sketchy story about a lonely housewife who has an affair with a drifter over a long weekend would be a catalyst for Eastwood as both director and actor to communicate volumes? His muse – Meryl Streep – in great accent and with blissful vulnerability as Francesca, must make tough choices to either be faithful to her family or to live out her every repressed fantasy and escape from all that she knows. The film’s leisurely pace, gorgeously photographed American heartland and mature themes of personal responsibility help both characters and viewers to cross literal and figurative cross-ways into new emotional depths. It’s fun to get caught up in the whirlwind of the Robert-Francesca romance and really tough to come back to reality. It’s a profound film of memories and choices made that will impact the rest of your life.
As the main characters mounting a theatrical spectacular in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway (A) toast to a world without compromise, deep inside they know they will have to sell out for a sellout performance. Allen’s showstopping exploration of art, deals and the art of the deal is a comedic bonbon with John Cusask in the lead, Dianne Wiest as a grand diva, Chazz Palminteri as a gangster producer and Jennifer Tilly as a sublimely untalented gangster moll and wannabe singer. The mounting verbal, sight and character gags that emerge as opening night for a doomed show coalesce seal the deal for the film’s appeal. And Allen has rarely made a film this striking in its visuals, with vivid pop colors, art deco posters, glitzy marquees and gorgeous iconography of the Great White Way providing a rich palette.
Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker have successfully bottled a great formula for comedy thanks to Robin Williams’ contribution as the voice of the Genie in the fabulous and briskly paced animated Aladdin (A). Disney has finally found a voice to match its colorful, vivid animation; Williams’ manic characterization and hilarious anachronisms fill in the lines of an absorbing work of pure fantasy about a rugrat who gets three wishes and woos a princess. Composers Howard Ashman, Alan Menken and Tim Rice get high points with “Friend Like Me,” a great moment of razzmatazz, and “A Whole New World,” which evokes a Superman style flight aboard a magic carpet. It’s everything you could wish for in a family-friendly adventure.