"I show some wear. I don't deny it " says Murphy Jones, well into his fifties and widowed, to Emma Moriarty, well into her thirties and divorced with a young son. "If the fruit hangs on the tree long enough, it gets ripe. I'm durable, I'm steady and I'm faithful. And I'm in love for the last time in my life."
"I'm in love for the first time in my life," Emma says.
"So...stay for supper, Murphy?"
"I won't do that," Murphy says, "unless I'm still here for breakfast."
Emma looks at him. "How do you like your eggs," she asks.
Murphy's Romance is a mature, funny and wise valentine of a movie for people fortunate enough to have found long-lasting love the first time or have been given an opportunity for a second chance. Emma (Sally Field), divorced and wanting to start a new life for herself and her son, has rented a broken-down horse ranch in Arizona where she hopes to make a living boarding and training horses. She has little money, can't get a loan and knows no one in the small, nearby town. Murphy Jones (James Garner) is the town's pharmacist. He owns the drug store on Main Street. It still has an old-fashioned soda fountain. When Emma walks in and orders a lemon Coke, he makes it the old fashioned way...Coke syrup, seltzer water and juice from a squeezed lemon. He's a friendly enough sort, realistic about things, thinks he knows people and is a little stubborn...like his Twenties Studebaker he keeps polished to perfection and parked right in front of the store...and he'll pay the parking fines if he has to 'cause he's not moving the car.
Little by little the two of them come across each other in the small town. When Emma asks what kind of place it is, Murphy says, "Oh, small, friendly, nosy. You can carry a gun, but you can't get an abortion." "I don't want to do either," says Emma. With time, Emma's horse boarding business begins to look better. Then Emma's ex shows up, a friendly, charming ne'er-do-well. He's as reliable as next week's weather forecast. He charms his son and tries to charm Emma again. But he's broke, she feels sorry for him, so she let's him stay. Then Murphy starts regularly showing up at the ranch. He has a horse being boarded by Emma. It's not long before Murphy is invited by Emma to dinner many an evening. Things happen that send her ex back out of her life. And Murphy and Emma bring things to a happy close with that question about eggs.
Murphy's Romance has no mysteries about it. We know Murphy and Emma will wind up together the moment Emma walks into the drug store and orders the lemon Coke. What the movie does so effectively and with so much charm and affection is show us two adults, with personalities and quirks we come to like, slowly, warily finding ways to demonstrate how they feel about each other. Its depiction of a mature romance is low-key, almost matter-of-fact, and is driven by the laid-back style of James Garner and the cautious, hard-working vulnerability of Sally Field. What keeps the movie interesting is that wary, developing interest the two of them find in each other. Watching it grow slowly over corned beef hash and bingo, over an ice cream cone and a birthday cake, over Emma's concern about her son and Murphy's refusal to own up to his age (he does, finally)...is amusing and satisfying. It helps that the depiction of this small town is just as low-key and friendly as the story-line. There's no small-town condescension. The movie house open only Thursdays through Sundays, the bingo parlor, the one cafe, the barbecue at Emma's ranch, Murphy's birthday party, all are presented straight up with affection, with nothing dramatic added. Murphy's Romance is simply a very nice movie with a warm, literate screenplay and two appealing lead actors.