1992, PG-13, 102 min. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Haysbert, Stephanie Mcfadden, Brian Kerwin, Louise Latham.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 26, 1993
Love Field is a quietly engaging and uncharacteristic little period piece set in the American South in the early Sixties that tells the story of an interracial friendship. The Love Field of the title comes from Dallas' Love Field airport, the Kennedys' point of arrival on that fateful day in November 1963. Lurene (Pfeiffer -- who is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in this role) is a Dallas housewife who feels a special bond with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. From her platinum blond hairdo and trim homemade suit dresses to her recent miscarriage, Lurene's obsession with Jackie stems more from her own boredom and lack of identity than anything actual. After the assassination, Lurene feels compelled to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the funeral and pay her respects. It doesn't matter to her that her husband thinks she's crazy. She's swept up in the magnitude of the moment and boards a Greyhound bus heading east. Lurene's a woman with a mission, fuzzy though it may be. On the bus as it rolls through the South, Lurene makes the acquaintance of a black man who calls himself Paul Johnson (Haysbert) and his wide-eyed, silent daughter Jonell (McFadden). With her natural sweetness and incessant chatter, Lurene just kind of attaches herself to the pair and she grows ever more curious about the heart-wrenching little girl and her father whose ID lists a different name than the one he gave Lurene. Lurene seems oblivious to the sidelong reproofs from both black and white passengers, Paul seems all too conscious of the taboos. It is with naive gaucherie that Lurene points out things like “how much President Kennedy did for the Negro.” Despite Paul and Jonell's resistance to her overtures, Lurene barges headlong into their lives. And despite Lurene's instincts for doing the right thing, her actions so often wind up being exactly the wrong thing. Love Field becomes a road odyssey as, bit by bit, their acquaintanceship draws them into a deeper tangle of deception, evasion and flight. There are enemies and taboos in every direction, but especially from within. It's in those little moments that this movie shines, those little glimmers between compassion and comprehension. Love Field falters in its broader strokes. The script becomes awkward and stagy every time it sets these characters apart from the immediacy of their roles and makes them commentators on their situation. Piling a love dynamic onto the weight of this story is more baggage than its delicate structure can comfortably withstand. And with her part-Marilyn, part-Jackie good looks, Lurene's just a bit too stand-out pretty to be wandering through bus stations unaccosted. Though Pfeiffer is good in the role, there is something about Lurene's total effect that comes off a bit too forced -- the Southern accent, the platinum hair, the sweet naïveté. (Pfeiffer deserves an Academy Award nomination this year, but it should instead be for her delicious work as Catwoman in Batman Returns). Co-star Haysbert turns in an impressive performance and deserves every bit as much attention as Pfeiffer for the success of Love Field. These two are in virtually every scene and it is the strength of their performances that makes this delicate story come to life.