There's a sure-fire way to spot a lurching cinematic failure: look at the stars. Not in astronomic terms, but in who is in it and why is it not getting buzz. You heard about Clint Eastwood's Mystic River a long time before it came out because it had a big cast and they were all excellent in the film. Furthermore, the film itself was brilliant, one of the best of that year. So, one has to wonder why a film starring Robert Deniro, Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Bates, and F. Murray Abraham (all talented actors) was released and forgotten within a week? It happens once in a blue moon but when it does, look out! You're about to witness a sinker like none the world has seen. Stand in awe of Mary McGuckian's The Bridge of the San Luis Rey, a true, honest-to-God blunder.
Thornton Wilder's famed novel has been filmed three times, including this one. The story is interesting and its ideas on religion and corruption are certainly timely. Brother Juniper (Gabriel Byrne, wasted as a pointless framing device) has recently collected data and put it into a book about five souls who lost their lives when the Bridge of San Luis Rey collapsed. The book implicates a bit of a conspiracy concerning the bridge's collapse, but the Archbishop of Peru (Robert De Niro) sustains that it was an act of the devil and that Brother Juniper, and his book, are calculating heathens. Most of the film is a flashback to the events leading up to the bridge's failure, mainly concerning the wealthy Marquesa (Kathy Bates), a young actress Dona Clara (Émilie Dequenne), and their relationship with the Viceroy of Peru (F. Murray Abraham). The Viceroy has impregnated Dona Clara and is a bold faced hypocrite for first shunning the Marquesa and then making Dona show her respect and humility. The only one who seems to really care about the poor actress is Uncle Pio (Harvey Keitel), the head of the acting troupe that Dona Clara is in. The film leads up to both the breaking of the bridge and the court's judgment of Brother Juniper. Neither goes well, as you might imagine.
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