My friend Cristina told me she had caught The Bridges of Madison County on cable last week. She'd seen it before, she said, but this time it really hit her. She started crying about halfway through and couldn't stop.
I had to confess that I'd seen the first ten minutes and couldn't take any more. Not that I found it sad; I found it dead boring. I didn't want to insult her--I know many people who loved the book and the movie and found them both overwhelmingly moving. I couldn't finish the book and disliked the movie even more. But I didn't want to sound like a heartless ice queen type; I can hardly watch any movie without a tear or two rolling down one cheek or the other--even a comedy.
I tried to think of a movie that did me in as that one did Cristina. I lay awake that night and couldn't think of one. I dug down deep into my childhood (we all cried when Beth died in Little Women, in the book too). As a teenager I wept at the field of dying soldiers in Gone With the Wind, was wiped out by the innocent naif Leslie Caron in Lili (I was an innocent naif too). I cried when it looked as if Doris Day had married the wrong man (Frank Sinatra) in Young at Heart while smoothie Gig Young still loved her. As a young bride I was inconsolable when Richard Baseheart died in La Strada ("The fool is dead, Zampano! The fool won't laugh any more!"), and cried inspired tears when Charlie Chaplin taught Claire Bloom to walk in Limelight. I made the decision in that darkened theater to audition for Actors' Studio, which I did within months.
Other "weeper" movies did nothing for me. I couldn't tolerate the characters in Love Story, and didn't buy that love means never having to say you're sorry. I missed Somewhere in Time, but have seen bits of it on television. I love The Sound of Music, but mostly for that Austrian folk dance and the song "I Must Have Done Something Right." I'm a bit of a sucker for Christopher Plummer. I know he hated working on the movie and called it "The Sound of Mucous," but it didn't make me cry.
I lost it at Beaches. At the time I saw it my flamboyant lifelong best friend had mysterious symptoms and was seeing a doctor--the movie was a glimpse of the future for me and it was cathartic to have my worst fears played out before they came true.
Why The Bridges of Madison County didn't work for me I'm not sure. I really kind of like being manipulated by clever authors even when I know they are doing it, but this seemed formulaic and predictable to me. The characters didn't seem real in the book and less so as impersonated by Clint Eastwood (too old) and Meryl Streep (not sexy enough). Don't get me wrong, I admire both actors, but they didn't suit their roles--maybe it's because I know them too well. Had the film starred two unknowns I might have been able to suspend disbelief.
Reading this, you will think of movies that made you wish for a whole box of Kleenex instead of the one ragged one you'd been keeping in your purse for months. Maybe there are men who cry at movies too. Let me know which ones did it for you.