By Peter Travers
November 14, 1988 12:00 PM

As a virginal Southern beauty queen, circa 1955, Jessica Lange is always “rattlin’ on” about problems barely big enough to crease her pretty brow. She’s adored by college football hero Dennis Quaid and his egghead nephew, Timothy Hutton. But when Lange marries Quaid, now turned pro, and has four kids, life as a football wife turns her bitter. In his 1981 novel, SPORTS IILLUSTRATED writer Frank Deford skillfully traced the fading of youthful ideals over 40 years. It’s hard to figure why screenwriter Tom (Raggedy Man) Rickman and director Taylor (White Nights) Hackford have tarted up Deford’s funny and moving story with a trashy Hollywood gloss. The film’s depiction of the civil rights movement in the South has the same heat as Lange’s one-night fling with Hutton, namely none. This is the kind of movie in which makeup does most of the acting. Quaid is padded and puffed out as the aging athlete who loses his self-esteem when he retires from the game. Hutton, in a role he should have fired his agent for accepting, is saddled with absurd goatees, mustaches and hairstyles that are meant to show aging but only make him look like a kid playing grown-up. As for Lange, her transformation from honey pie to hard-nosed political aide is no more convincing than her painted-on crow’s-feet. By the end of this turgid mess, these talented, trapped actors look ready to run for their lives—at last a sentiment the audience can share. (R)