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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Murphy's Romance, made in 1985, is a warm, timeless tale of two people who've known heartbreak but strive to find joy and comfort in lives of quiet dignity and self-reliance. Their paths cross in a small Southwestern town in which familiar pleasures and simple values are readily at hand. Sally Field and James Garner (Academy Award-nominated for his lead performance) forge an easy friendship, soon complicated by events that upset the balance of their evolving bond. And at the film's core is a vulnerable young boy whose well-being matters to them both. The film's PG-13 rating is based on profanity: one "f--k," several uses of "s--t," and a smattering of other salty language such as "goddamn," "pissing," "banging," and "ass." A brief scene from a horror movie is shown: A woman is knifed; bloodcurdling screams accompany the action. Sexuality includes kissing, embracing, a man trying to seduce his ex-wife, a nude man seen from behind as he enters a shower, and some references to one's "sex life." People drink beer in social situations; one man drinks whiskey from a bottle and later appears to be drunk. Still, despite those cautions, this is a film that values strong moral behavior and has excellent role models at its heart.
What's the story?
Sally Field is Emma Moriarty, a scrappy single mom seeking a new life in a small town in Arizona in MURPHY'S ROMANCE. With her good-natured but sensitive son Jake (Corey Haim) in tow, Emma has purchased a dilapidated farmhouse and barn where she plans to make a living by boarding and training horses. She's good at it, but it's tough going; money is tight, but she's eager and hardworking. She only falls apart when it's absolutely necessary. When she meets Murphy Jones (James Garner), an older widower who seems to be a mainstay of the community, she makes her first friend. Emma and Jake are slowly becoming part of town life when Bobby Jack (Brian Kerwin), Emma's ex-husband and Jake's dad, roars onto the place. He's both charismatic and irresponsible, loving and a loser in equal measure. While Emma doesn't trust Bobby Jack, she's a soft touch, still susceptible to his boyish charm. She allows him to stay with them, faintly hoping that he's mended his immature ways. Emma's patience and her growing bond with Murphy are put to the test as Bobby Jack tries to win back his family.
Is it any good?
Sally Field and Jim Garner sparkle in this romantic comedy about two grown-ups finding love at an unexpected time in an unexpected place. Field made a substantial career by playing a feisty woman coming into her own, winning two Academy Awards. This movie is one of the rewards of her continued success. Slow, easy, and with grace, director Martin Ritt and company have created two believable people as they reach for joy and serenity in small-town America. The movie's not jokey-funny; the humor as well as the heart come from the characters. And there's no true villain; the conflict comes from within those characters. Original songs by Carole King set just the right tone. In spite of some salty language, the flash of a man's butt on the way to the shower, and occasional beer drinking, Murphy's Romance is a well-made, engaging romantic comedy that will appeal to mature tweens, teens, and adults, both male and female.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "product placement" in films and television. When Murphy's Romance was made, Columbia Pictures was owned by the Coca-Cola Company. Did you notice how many times the drink was seen and mentioned? Why is it important for audiences to be aware that film can be used as a source of both direct and subliminal advertising?
This movie was given a PG-13 rating mostly because of profanity: There was swearing, and the word "f--k" was used once. Is profanity a factor in your family's decision about whether or not older kids and tweens can see a film? What other factors influence that decision?
In some romcoms, people fall in love "at first sight." How did the filmmakers build the characters of Emma and Murphy to make their relationship believable? Why does this believability enhance your enjoyment of and investment in the story?
- In theaters: December 25, 1985
- On DVD or streaming: May 16, 2000
- Cast: Sally Field, James Garner, Corey Haim
- Director: Martin Ritt
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Humility, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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