Three characters ride a bus from Dallas, TX to Washington D.C.: a woman in mourning, and a man on the run with his six-year-old daughter. Together, these unlikely traveling companions embark on a journey of self-discovery during one of the most pivotal weekends in American history. The movie is “Love Field” (1992), starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Dennis Haysbert, featured this month on MGM HD.
The story begins on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, when the country was thrown into turmoil. That cataclysmic event sets into motion a series of events that will bring the characters together. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Lurene Hallet, a friendly, if naïve, platinum blonde whose obsession with Jacqueline Kennedy is a coping mechanism to cover for a recent loss. Dennis Haysbert plays Paul Cater, an African American man, harboring a secret of his own, trying to start a new life with his daughter (played Stephanie McFadden).
Pfeiffer’s Lurene is a woman living in a mild fantasy world. As she makes her way north, to attend the funeral of the slain Kennedy – to whom she regularly refers as “my president,” she undergoes a transformation. Like the country she is traveling through, she gradually loses some of the innocence that kept her blinded to the problems in the world around her. Pfeiffer’s Academy Award® nominated performance is, on the surface, light, sweet, and at times comedic. But underneath, the actress brings the depth and feeling for which she is well known and respected.
But it is Haysbert’s Paul who brings the film its real gravitas. As a black man in the America of early sixties, he can’t afford to live a life of illusion and fantasy. The threats around him are real and existential. The ever-present danger of racism lurks around every corner, down every highway, and potentially behind every badge. For Paul, a passing car full of rednecks can mean a fight for survival. Paul’s singular responsibility is the safety of his young daughter and the hope of raising her in a better world.
“Love Field” explores a time in American history that may not be as distant in the rear-view mirror as we tend to think. But “Love Field” is also an old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama: part character study; part social commentary; and part unexpected romance. It’s the kind of movie that draws you in and takes you along for a ride. Like any good road trip story, it’s an odyssey with twists and turns and, most of all, good company.
Look out for “Love Field,” airing November on MGM HD.