Sarandon enjoys a sturdier vehicle for her talents [in Lorenzo’s Oil] than Michelle Pfeiffer does in Love Field, a low-octane interracial romance between a chatterbox Dallas housewife. (Pfeiffer) and a black pharmacist (Dennis Haysbert) set in 1963. Yet Pfeiffer overcomes the poky direction of Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused) and the unfocused script by Don Roos (of Single White Female infamy). She weaves magic in a portrayal of striking grace notes.
Pfeiffer’s Lurene Hallett is fixated on the Kennedys (she wears a Jackie-like pillbox hat). She is shattered by the news of JFK’s assassination. Against the wishes of her redneck husband (Brian Kerwin), she embarks on a bus trip to the funeral in Washington. Paul Cater (Haysbert) is a fellow passenger traveling with his five-year-old daughter, Jonell (Stephanie McFadden). Lurene’s yammering about all Kennedy has done for the Negro leaves Paul unmoved. In a tragic mix-up, Lurene and Paul become fugitives from the law, and a bond is forged. The Kennedy metaphor, meant to enlarge the feelings of these little people, only forces the movie to bear more weight than it can support. But long after Love Field hits a dead end, Pfeiffer cuts a path to the heart. Whether it’s for Love Field or the flashier Batman Returns, she’s a contender.
Mary McDonnell and Alfre Woodard shine, too, with the rich roles writer-director John Sayles (Eight Men Out, City of Hope) provides them in Passion Fish, an acutely funny and affecting duel of wits that ranks with Sayles’s finest achievements. McDonnell plays May-Alice, a soap star who gets hit by a taxi. Embittered by a paralysis she thinks will end her career and reduce her sex life to blow jobs, she retreats to the Louisiana home of her dead parents to drown her sorrows in wine, TV watching and the pleasures of using her scalding tongue to scare off nurses. Last in a long line is Chantelle (Woodard), who is fresh from Chicago and detox but determined to take on this “bitch on wheels.”