March 01, 1993 12:00 PM

Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Haysbert

This small Valentine of a movie almost didn’t open, which would have been a big fat shame. Love Field, a romance between a white woman and a black man set in 1963, languished on the shelf for more than a year, a victim of the financial collapse of Orion Pictures, which has since emerged from bankruptcy.

Pfeiffer plays a Dallas housewife so obsessed with the Kennedys—”I have the pattern to that same suit,” she confides to a fellow onlooker as Jackie steps off the plane at Dallas’s Love Field airport on the morning of Nov. 22—that she feels duty-bound to attend JFK’s funeral in Washington. On her way there she begins chatting up a fellow bus passenger, a black man (Haysbert) traveling with his young daughter.

“It’ll be a hard Thanksgiving,” she tells him. “[Kennedy] did a lot for the Negro.” “Right,” he says, with gentle condescension. Later, he offers her his copy of Look magazine, noting, “It’s got lots of pictures.”

Love Field does not whack at its points with a sledgehammer. Rather, Jonathan Kaplan’s restrained direction and Don Roos’s intelligent script carefully etch the growing relationship between Pfeiffer’s and Haysbert’s characters with quietly telling scenes and gentle humor. Haysbert registers strongly here. It’s Pfeiffer’s picture, though, a star turn in a movie that is actually worthy of one. (PG-13)

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