Murphy's Romance is the kind of film that proves a story can be told about nice people, facing comical and/or difficult circumstances, and be as lively and attention-grabbing as anything else.
Sally Field gives an understated performance as a woman with an unusual occupation (at least for the movies) who starts a new life in a desert town. James Garner, who patented the understated performance, is the local pharmacist (also an unusual occupation for the movies; the last time a pharmacist was even a minor character in a film was probably It's a Wonderful Life), who guides the newcomer toward potential love interests, all the while subtly romancing her himself.
Complications ensue when the good-for-nothing ex-husband turns up, and Field's character's young son gets to contrast his bone-idle dad with a real man. The movie is warm, witty and well-filmed. Alas, James Garner, in his best role, ran into the same problem as Harrison Ford, in his best role: Both were nominated for Oscars the year William Hurt starred in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and at the Oscars, cross-dressing usually trumps everything else.
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