FILMS

Dreaming of JFK

Taboo romance buds in the ruins of Camelot

Brian D. Johnson February 15 1993
FILMS

Dreaming of JFK

Taboo romance buds in the ruins of Camelot

Brian D. Johnson February 15 1993

Dreaming of JFK

FILMS

Taboo romance buds in the ruins of Camelot

LOVE FIELD

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan

On the threshold of a new era in U.S. politics, with the presidency of Bill Clinton being hailed as the second coming of Camelot, a movie that turns the clock back 30 years to the John F. Kennedy assassination seems especially welltimed. Love Field stars Michelle Pfeiffer as an adoring Kennedy fan whose life is irrevocably transformed by the assassination. The movie, an interracial romance, is about White America waking up from the Camelot dream. Its timing, however, seems more related to Hollywood politics than to the recent changing of the White House guard. Love Field, made by the now-bankrupt Orion Pictures, sat on the shelf for 18 months. The studio finally released it with the hope of getting Pfeiffer an Oscar nomination in an uncrowded field of female contenders—and perhaps sparing her the indignity of being nominated for her rubber-suit role as Catwoman in Batman Returns.

In Love Field, Pfeiffer does indeed give a wonderful performance. But its emotional complexity is betrayed by the onedimensional nature of the direction and the script. Pfeiffer plays Lurene, a Dallas housewife who is infatuated with John and Jacqueline Kennedy—to the point of copying Jacqueline’s wardrobe. The assassination shakes her like the death of a loved one. Determined to attend the funeral, she aban-

dons her husband and boards a bus to Washington. But her mission runs into a detour as she gets involved with a black passenger named Paul (Dennis Haysbert) who is travelling with a strangely silent and terrified child named Jonell (Stephanie McFadden).

Through a chain of misunderstandings, Paul and Lurene become fugitives on the run. Lurene insists that they have a lot in common. But her fairy-tale liberalism gradually erodes Paul’s polite reserve—there is a big difference, he snaps, “between being bored and being black.” Their conflict, of cours, is just a prelude to passion, which is portrayed with a prudish delicacy worthy of Disney. And as the script tiptoes towards a harmless ending, the plot’s sketchy resolution invites disbelief.

Director Jonathan Kaplan, who supervised Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning performance as a rape victim in The Accused, never seems quite worthy of his actors. He directs Love Field with a heavy hand. Still, newcomer Dennis Haysbert works wonders with a role that is over-determined by black dignity. And, as always, Pfeiffer seems incapable of expressing a false note. Critics have often carped that her beauty can be distracting. But as a platinum-blond fashion victim in Love Field, she presents a parody of suburban glamor etched in mascara—while offering all the subtle shadings of expression that make up a memorable performance.

BRIAN D. JOHNSON