Lurene Hallett is a slightly bored, slightly blonde Dallasonian housewife. Allow me to elaborate: Lurene’s life revolves around that of the current First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. She loves her dearly, rather like a child would idolise a movie star or a sports personality. In fact, the film begins with Lurene pasting her little clippings of Jack and Jackie into a cherished scrapbook.
This innocent, starry-eyed naivety is shockingly shattered on November 22nd 1963. Lurene, amongst the bustle of a typical autumn afternoon, becomes abruptly aware that something is very wrong. She notices the horror and the confusion on the faces of her fellow Americans; she notices worried whispers and tormented panic amid the commotion. Finally, she sees a television report in a shop window, confirming her suspicions: the President has been shot in the head.
The composition is particularly arresting as it presents an image of Mrs Hallett receiving the news of the assassination from a distance. It would have been easy to plop the character right into the action, right into the thick of the assassination. Instead, Lurene is separated by three literal ‘layers’ from the Kennedys: the television, of course, the windows of the shop, and the windshield of her car through which Lurene watches the scene unfold. It is interesting to note that the all the layers allow her to see the various happenings but nevertheless keep her from truly reaching it. Not only is the set-up more visually haunting, but it also works on a deeper level, mirroring Lurene’s impending separation from the world as she knows it.
Upon hearing the news, Lurene vows to pay her respects to her beloved president and decides to journey to Washington to attend his funeral (much to the exasperation and ultimate anger of her husband). Her husband forbids it; she, in turn, resolves to make her way across the country alone. Along the way, she meets Paul Cater, a mysterious black man, and his little daughter. Naturally, the passage to Washington is far from smooth sailing.
As much as I have come to admire Love Field, I’m afraid I must still confess that there are a few flaws which are difficult to ignore. It is not exactly that Love Field loses its way over the course of its story-telling, but rather that it doesn’t quite seem to know where it is going in the first place. At the beginning, the Kennedy obsession seems to be central, but as the film goes on this theme seems to apparently recede to the background, only to suddenly pop up again when you’ve pretty much forgotten about it entirely. As for those looking for a quiet consideration of racial tensions of the early 1960s, they may very well be turned off too by the car chases and the lengthy line of disasters around just about every corner.
Yet I do not truly believe that these apparent weaknesses detract from the inherent power of Love Field. Those disasters that I spoke of may have, in an odd way, even enhanced the film’s credibility. To see such terrible circumstances unfold, and to realise at the same time how easily these could have been a reality for someone, makes the utter hopelessness of the situation exceptionally moving. And when we realise that one can actually overcome such dreadful odds, and that life can still go on with each passing day, it is indeed uplifting.
To conclude, I thought I would describe to you what is perhaps the most wonderful aspect of Love Field: the fascinating characterisation of Lurene Hallett herself. At the start of the film, she quickly establishes herself as a bit of a kook. A slightly deluded southern woman who possesses a starling obsession with Jackie Kennedy; safe to say, she’s not exactly the most relatable character we’ve ever encountered. But somewhere along the way, we suddenly understand her.
Lurene shares these qualities with the very film in which she stars. Although apparently ‘different’, we gain an insight into, and perhaps even grow to love, this sweetly baffling little story. It tells, essentially, a tale to which we can all relate. We watch as our heroes struggle against a world they cannot comprehend and to which they simply do not belong. Yet we have faith that they will pull through, facing their problems always with great courage and integrity.