Dave Barry

Classic '95: How to write a guy movie


This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, July 23, 1995

As a sensitive and artistic individual, I have spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out how I can cash in on The Bridges of Madison County. This is of course the humongous best-seller book by Robert James Edward Henry Morton "Bud" Waller. It was recently made into one of the summer's top movies, Batman Forever.

No, sorry, the movie is called The Bridges of Madison County. It tells the compelling story of a lonely and bored Iowa farm wife named Francesca Johnson, who is actually Meryl Streep but her family does not realize this because she has dyed her hair and is using an accent. One day Francesca's family goes away on a trip, and her life is changed forever by the arrival of photographer Robert Kincaid, who is really Clint Eastwood disguised as a 127-year-old man. Thrown together by fate, Robert and Francesca spend the next four incredibly romantic, intense and passionate days arguing about whether tolaunch nuclear missiles against Russia.

No, sorry again, that was Crimson Tide. In The Bridges of Madison County, Robert and Francesca have a torrid affair, at the end of which Francesca, forced by circumstances to make the most agonizing decision of her life, turns to Robert and -- in an unforgettably dramatic moment -- says something that you can't hear because all the women in the theater audience are blowing their noses in a vast collective honk of anguish loud enough to rattle the popcorn machine. In some theaters, when this movie ends, rescue dogs have to be sent in to lead people to the exits through eight-foot-high drifting mounds of wadded- up Kleenex brand facial tissues.

My point is that The Bridges of Madison County makes women cry, which of course means that they love it. It's different with guys. Guys cry only if something happens that they consider to be truly terrible, usually involving a third-down situation. If a guy is really enjoying a movie, he will not manifest this by crying; he will manifest this by chewing his Milk Duds in a more thoughtful manner. As a rule, guys don't care for movies with a lot of dialogue. Guys become bored if a movie character speaks more than two consecutive sentences without some kind of important plot development, defined as shooting, punching, explosions, aliens, car chases, or Sharon Stone re-crossing her legs.

By this definition, The Bridges of Madison County contains very few plot developments and is thus not really a guy movie. This is the basis for my plan for cashing in on it. I've taken the original idea and, by making a few subtle changes, written the following screenplay treatment for a new, improved version of the movie, entitled The Bridges of Madison County for Guys. It begins with:


(Francesca Johnson, a 40ish Iowa farm housewife played by Drew Barrymore, is saying goodbye to her husband, played by the late Fred MacMurray.)

HUSBAND: Goodbye! I'll be at a boring cow-related event for several days, during which I'll have no way of knowing if you have a torrid affair!


(He drives off.)

FRANCESCA: Well, I guess I'll get naked and look at myself in a mirror!

(She does.)


(It is later in the day. Francesca is in the cornfield, spreading fertilizer, wearing a thong bikini, when a pickup truck appears. It is driven by Robert Kincaid, a weather-beaten 50ish photographer played by Keanu Reeves.)

ROBERT: I'm lost! Want to have sex?


(They do.)


(Later, Francesca and Robert are in the kitchen.)

FRANCESCA: You have a big lens!

ROBERT: Thanks! I'm a photographer for National Geographic, here to take pictures of covered bridges!

FRANCESCA: Sounds boring! Let's have more sex!

(They do.)


(The next morning, Francesca and Robert are driving to a covered bridge in his pickup truck. Suddenly, another truck appears from behind and rams them.)

FRANCESCA: Yikes! Who's doing that?

ROBERT: Those are rival covered-bridge photographers from Life magazine! They'll stop at nothing!

FRANCESCA: What shall we do?

ROBERT: I'll run them off the road, and because this is a movie, the instant their truck strikes any object, including a stalk of corn, it will explode in an enormous cinematic fireball!

(It does.)


(Francesca and Robert are back at the farmhouse.)

FRANCESCA (naked): That was a refreshing shower!

ROBERT (looking out the window): Uh-oh! Your husband has returned!


ROBERT: Wait a minute! His pickup truck has exploded in an enormous cinematic fireball as a result of being hit by a missile fired by a fighter jet piloted by Tom Cruise!

FRANCESCA: Whew! That was close!

ROBERT: And now Kevin Costner's dad is coming out of the cornfield, wearing an old-fashioned baseball uniform!

FRANCESCA: What a heartwarming ending to this movie, despite the gratuitous sex and violence!

ROBERT: Even Bob Dole would approve!

BOB DOLE: Sure! All I care about is getting elected!

FRANCESCA: Given the current state of American culture, this movie actually has a chance of getting made!

(It does.)

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