The year after she won the Best Actress Oscar for Places in the Heart, Sally Field filled a role both different and similar in Murphy’s Romance. Still a strong single mother forced to work for a living, she is more independent and self-reliant here while also depending on help from Murphy. Oscar nominee James Garner turns in his finest performance as the titular Murphy, who has just the right amount of folksy charm and tough, down-to-earth wisdom to make up for the fact he’s nearly twice Emma’s age. Brian Kerwin is appropriately unlikable as the loser ex-husband Bobby Jack (he utters the film’s lone F-word), while retaining some evidence of why Emma first found him appealing.
Since the plot is pretty simple and uneventful, the film thrives on its dialogue, and it’s one of the most underrated quotable movies out there. Murphy and Emma trade sharp wit throughout the film, and little lines here and there have found their way into my own family’s conversations. I love the affectionately realistic mother-son relationship between Emma and Jake, as well as the fond depiction of small-town life, preferring country dances and innocent bingo halls to slasher films and such. My VC also likes the score by Carole King (who had a cameo), featuring David Sanborn on sax.
Nevertheless, it deserves its PG-13 rating, with several profanities and some brief scenes of nudity and violence thrown in to appease the studio. The final scene indicating Emma and Murphy will spend the night together may be romantic, but it seems to ignore the fact that Emma’s son Jake is right there in the house. Aside from that, their clever exchanges are the highlights of the film and make it a near-perfect romance.
Best line: (Emma, questioning the number of candles on Murphy’s birthday cake) “Okay, what is it? How old are you, Murphy?” (Murphy) “Just set the damn thing on fire.”
VC’s best line: (Murphy, at his birthday party) “My friends have overlooked my shortcomings, seen me through some dark days, and brightened up the rest of them. I’m glad to have them; I’m honored to have them; I’m lucky to have them.”Artistry: 8 Characters/Actors: 9 Entertainment: 9 Visual Effects: N/A Originality: 9 Watchability: 10 Other (language, brief violence): -3 TOTAL: 42 out of 60
Next: #200 – My Girl
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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