Murphy’s Romance

When I woke up yesterday morning, I turned on the TV and watched some news out of Libya. My mom called to ask me which days I was taking off for my Christmas vacation. I watched the Bill Geist segment about pole dancing on the CBS Sunday Morning show. I believe the segment was a repeat. I finished my cereal with raisins, and then went over to the coffee shop. I had hot chocolate and listened to Hot Chocolate. I also watched the Ebert Presents program about Great Performances That Oscar Ignored. They were: John Cazale in “Dog Day Afternoon,” Shelley Duvall in “Three Women,” Genevieve Bujold in “Another Man, Another Chance,” Martin Sheen in “Badlands,” Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange,” and Robert Mitchum in “The Yakuza.” My friend John told me about spending two 10-hour days driving around truckloads of mud for not very much money. He got his bachelor’s degree in psychology, and now that is the kind of work he’s doing. When I got back home, I watched “Murphy’s Romance.” The stars were Sally Field and James Garner, and a very young Corey Haim played Sally’s son. The director was Martin Ritt, who made “Hud” and “Hombre” in years past, along with “Norma Rae” with Sally Field. This time, Sally Field was a divorced woman named Emma Moriarity. We first see her moving her possessions to this new town, Eunice, Arizona. This opening made me think of other movies with women moving, like Ellen Burstyn in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” and Marsha Mason in “Promises in the Dark.” Emma’s trying to make a living as a horse trainer. We hear Carole King on the soundtrack. I didn’t care for the 80’s electronic touches to the music. I’d rather just hear her play the piano. By 1985, I wasn’t hearing much of her on the radio. I don’t know what she’d been doing since about 1977. James Garner was Murphy Jones, supposed the most eligible widower in town. He was a pharmacist, and owner of a vintage car from 1927 that could go only as fast as 30 mph. If he was so proud of it, though, I couldn’t understand why he had signs in the window promoting his causes, like “No Nukes” and “Re-Forest America.” There was a reference to the Equal Rights Amendment in the dialogue. I noticed that a Lemon Coke cost 35 at that time and place. Murphy was supposed to be playing the violin on “Paper Moon.” I couldn’t picture James Garner as much of a musician. Murphy was a man who believed in old fashioned values, like dealing cards honestly in poker games, treating women in a gentlemanly manner, and watching John Wayne movies instead of teenage horror flicks. I got a little tired of him, and I thought the movie moved along a bit slowly. It was kind of interesting that Sally Field’s character was supposed to be 33, which was younger than she was in real life, while James Garner was about 57 in 1985 and playing a character who was older than he was. I didn’t think the chemistry between them was too good. Murphy was a man who stood for decency, but he seemed rather like an old man rigidly set in his ways. Would someone like Emma really go all starry-eyed over him? He seemed a bit more like her father. That’s what they call the Elektra complex. Corey Haim seemed to sit around and pout a lot. It was hard to imagine him becoming what he became. One thing you notice about this small town is that every shop is named after its owner, always using the first name, too. I thought a couple of the street scenes weren’t convincing. They looked staged, too full of people. The movie theatre in town was called the Spur, and it wasn’t open seven days a week, and the price of admission was three dollars. Emma’s ex-husband Bobby Jack comes around and plants himself at her house and doesn’t leave, like The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave. That’s what he is in terms of the movie, too. He’s so immature and selfish that it’s so very disagreeable to watch him. The script disposes of him in a comic way that wasn’t so believable. Well, it would have been believable in a French sex comedy. The humor in this movie is very light, but so much that I didn’t laugh much. I thought the love story lacked spark or colorful moments. I thought it was a thoroughly average effort. There was something a little interesting in Emma’s wanting to know Murphy’s age. When a woman asks a man how old he is, it’s different than when a man asks a woman how old she is. There was a little bit of pleasure in looking back at the 80s, like taking the Hot Tub Time Machine back to the year of Live Aid, “We Are the World,” and New Coke. Speaking of the 80s, I watched some of the KOFY Dance Party. DJ Katie Green started with Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” I noticed one of the dancers on the floor wearing a green A’s jersey with Dave Stewart’s name on the back. When one of the women played a game of naming an 80’s movie theme and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” played, she confidently yelled out, “Star Wars!” She deserved to get booed. I saw a couple of people in wheelchairs out on the floor. A girl who wore a Ramones shirt won the Air Guitar Challenge, even though her moves weren’t great. No one ever does the power slide. Morris Knight said that next week, they would have a tribute to Michael Jackson, but I might not be able to watch because of the Raiders-Saints game. Of course, if the violence from Saturday night spills over to the Coliseum, I might die at the game. I predict that DJ Katie Green is going to play “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and “Thriller.” I listened to an Angela Hewitt Bach album. I’ve been looking in the record stores for Simone Dinnerstein, but I can never find anything. Around 11:30 I got too sleepy to do much.

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