‘The Bridge of San Luis Rey’



Written and directed by Mary McGuckian

Fine Line, in release

Not terrible enough to warrant its dump job, The Bridge of San Luis Rey is an honorable but dull attempt to translate a neglected literary source to the screen. In 18th-century Peru, after the collapse of a well-traversed bridge, Brother Juniper (Gabriel Byrne) seeks a common thread among the victims’ lives—a possible divine purpose for their mutual deaths. Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (filmed in 1929 and 1944) used this scenario to pose and transcend the chance-versus-fate question, favoring character over circumstance. But the movie offers only the spectacle of A-list actors floundering with a prolix screenplay. Harvey Keitel still can’t sell a blandishment like “Now, now, my crescent moon,” and Robert De Niro, as the archbishop of Lima, affects a wiseguy demeanor by default. Playing an aging marquesa, Kathy Bates compensates somewhat, as does F. Murray Abraham, whose viceroy of Peru expresses a familiar sentiment when he quips, “I am surrounded by oceans of boredom.” BEN KENIGSBERG

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