Entertainment Weekly (Februry 12, 1993)
Race Relations

INTERRACIAL LOVE stories tend to leave a sanctimonious aftertaste: The very act of presenting a mixed love affair as "courageous" and "spcial" is, in fact, a regressive, conservation one. Even as we nod in righteousness at what we're seeing, we're being made acutely aware of race, of color. The taboo hasn't really been broken -- it's just that now we're meant to congratulate ourselves for having the temerity to see beyond it.

The audience is never allowed to forget the racial identity of the protagonists in Jonathan Kaplan's Love Field, which may be a reason this early-60's fable sticks in the craw --it's like one of those soggy-liberal, story-of-a-perfect-black-man vehicles they used to fashion for Sidney Poitier. Set in the week following the JFK assassination, the movie follows Lurene Hallett (Michelle Pfeiffer), a chattery Southern belle, as she acts out her devoton to the late President by hopping a Greyhound in her native Dallas and heading for his funeral. Her journey is presented as an act of proto-feminist defiance against her domineering, white-trash husband (Brian Kerwin). On the bus, she meets Paul Cater (Dennis Haysbert), who is soft-spoken, kindly, and black. we're meant to register his straight-ahead gaze and thoughtful, sonorous voice and perceive his Inner Goodness.

Paul has a young daughter in tow, and it soon becomes apparent that he's involved in some sort of mysterious kidnapping scheme. When the bus crashes, he and Lurene are thrown together in a cross-country odysseythat encompasses issue of trust, survival, and, finally, love. Lurene is drawn to Paul out of maternal concern for his little girl; then she learns of his predicament, and her feelings blossom. As for Paul, he is put in the tricky position of traveling with a beauitful white woman, which he knows may be suicide.

Love Field is earnest, compassionate, smoothly directed, and something of a crock. Despite its humanist veneer, the movie, at heart, is a soft-pedaled thriller, with too many garish twists and turns. And Lurene and Paul are simply too brave, soulful, and well meaning to be believed: The scene in which their friendship climaxes with a steamy kiss might be more convincing if it didn't feel like the meeting of two saints. The best reason to see the movie is Pfeiffer, who gives a finely modulated performance, showing us the delicate tug-of-was between Lurene's rigid homespun values and her better nature. Yet those values are defeated a little too easily; by the end, even the layered emotionalism of Pfeiffer's work is blanked by the film's need to see her as a role model. Love Field is designed to give audiences an easy way to feel good about themselves. It sprinkles its character's very ordinariness with liberal fairy dust. C+

Empire Magazine -- Video Review

One that slipped through the distribution net after its production company Orion's collapse three years ago, this interracial period drama has finally surfaced on video, having received only a limited showing in the US to secure Michelle Pfeiffer an Oscar nomination in a year when Best Actress were thin on the ground.

It's november 1963 and Pfeiffer's Lurine Hallett is a Dallas housewife and hairdresser besotted with the Kennedys -- particularly Jackie, whose coniffure and chic little suits she slavishly copies. Grieving for the loss of her baby and recving little understanding from her dullard husband, the lonely chatterbox joins the crowd at the airport to greet the Kennedys on the 22nd and is totally devastated when news of JFK's assassination flashes across TV screens a few hours later.

Detemined to attend the President's funeral in washington D.C., she sets out on a journey that will transform her life when she attaches herself to a sympathetic black man on the bus (Haysbert) and his winsome, silent child jonell (McFadden). through a series of misunderstandings and unhappy accidents, the trio find themselves on the run, with the FBI, local cops, racist rednecks and Lurine's blockhead husband in pursuit.

As the pair slowly turn to each other in their troubles, this eventually emerges as a gently played love story, and a moving story of a woman's liberating journey of self-discovery. Haysbert is strong, Pfeiffer sweet and touching, though it's not difficult to see why Denzel Washington withdrew from the production. Resolutely a woman's vehicle, the script is soft, the story contrived and unlikely in its developments, and, ironically perphes, the film as a whole is mot effective as a metaphor for how well-meeting whites can blunder around amking a hash of things.

3 stars
Angie Errigo
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