It’s a little movie that I enjoyed. It’s always moving and almost never boring and it makes a good point on racial discrimination.
Lurene is a woman obsessed with Jackie Kennedy. Just like Jackie, Lurene had just lost a child and uses her devotion for the presidential family as a strange way of grieving. When JFK is shot and killed, Lurene knows she most attend the funeral, even when her redneck husband clearly disapproves. So she goes on a bus ride from Dallas to Washington, a trip that will ultimately change her life. Her good intentions will provoke chaos in the lives of a black man and his little girl.
The character is written so that it gets on your nerves a bit. We admire her passion for Jackie and her friendly happy-go-lucky way, but she talks and talks and talks, she’s indiscreet and doesn’t mind her own business. It’s not her we identify with or root for, but the black man (very good performance by Dennis Haysbert) who unwillingly finds himself in lots of trouble because of this woman. So it’s a rough time for Michelle, who has to be faithful to the character, but also not make her too annoying, otherwise we’ll lose interest.
And she does a good job for the most of it. What pulls down the performance is the Texan accent that just doesn’t work at times or is simply overcooked. Her loudness is troubling, but true to the character. And it’s not the first time I ask myself this: what’s more important: loving a performance or respecting the actor for being faithful to a problematic character? It’s a tough call, but I am much allowed to be subjective. I can agree with some of her acting decisions, but I most certainly don’t love this performance.
The best moments in Michelle’s performance come in the second half of the film, once she calms down and the story becomes more involving. We get to see a bit of the soft touch of the character, we get to know this lonely woman who basically lives in a fantasy world, but, to her own tragedy, she’s much aware of this. This whole episode makes her confront her truth and also acknowledge that life isn’t always as she imagined it to be. Her naiveté towards what blacks were really going through is well played and Michelle really makes us believe that this entire journey is an eye-opening one for the Lurene.
The second part also gives us a more mature Lurene. She gets confrontation scenes with the black man she starts falling for and with her husband; good acting redeems Michelle and we dive deeper into the problems of the character.
Overall, this is an ok performance. At first I was tempted to classify it as a mediocre one, but I guess it’s that type of role that grows on you and with time you can discover the maturity of the performance and the complexity of the character. There’s lots going on, no doubt about that, but it’s the mature, honest Lurene that Pfeiffer nails best. This is not among Michelle’s highest achievements, but it’s a colourful character and a good performance. I give her , even though in real time it’s a 2,50.