Yet another movie that uses the Kennedy assassination as a backdrop, "Love Field" is about a young Dallas woman who is obsessed with the Kennedys. And she's so obsessed with Jackie that she takes pains to look, dress and act like her.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Lurene, whose layabout, chauvinistic husband Ray (Kerwin Matthews) doesn't understand why she dresses up in those suits or why she wears that platinum blonde bouffant. And he grumbles when she insists on going to the Dallas airport to see Jack and Jackie arrive on that fateful day in November of 1963.
They are on their way home when the assassination occurs, and Lurene, of course, is completely shattered. But Ray really doesn't understand when she throws a fit because he won't let her drive all the way to Washington just to go to the funeral.
So, Lurene strikes out on her own, perhaps for the first time in her life. She boards a Greyhound bus and heads east, on what will, naturally, become a voyage of discovery.
Aboard the bus she links up with a black man named Paul (Dennis Haysbert) and his wide-eyed little girl Jonell (Stephanie McFadden). Soon she will discover that they are also fugitives.
Throughout the trip, Paul is reluctant to be friendly, watching as those around him stare at this black man and white woman, involved in conversations that she initiates. Lurene has recently lost her own baby and is anxious to befriend Jonell.
It isn't long before Paul finds he was right to mistrust Lurene, since her naivete gets him into one racially charged scrape after another.
Paul has kidnapped his daughter from a state agency and Lurene inadvertently puts the law on his trail.
"Love Field" is a well-intentioned film with something to say, something that will likely touch chords in the audience.
But the relationship between Lurene and Paul simply is awkwardly scripted (by Don Roos, of "Single White Female") and directed (by Jonathan Kaplan, "Unlawful Entry," "The Accused").
There's also an uneasy mix of comedy and melodrama, portraying Lurene as a ditzy blonde whose penchant for blundering is used largely as a comic catalyst, yet spilling over into very serious scenes that attempt to show how the Kennedy assassination united the country for a time, though many Americans were still suffering the angry, violent repercussions of racial inequality.
There's nothing wrong with putting these elements together but in this film they tend to blur more than blend.
As to Pfeiffer's Oscar nomination, you may be wondering if she deserves it. Well, she's good. But given a choice between Pfeiffer in this role and any of the other nominees, she'd come in fifth on my list. And by a wide margin, I'd have given a nomination instead to Alfre Woodard in "Passion Fish," who was completely overlooked.
"Love Field" is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and sex.
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