A prostitute and a drifter find themselves bound together as they make their way through the rural South, doing what they have to do to survive.
I have a soft spot in my heart for road movies that feature lovable losers surviving in the midst of the odds stacked against them. Or perhaps I find this subject matter a guilty pleasure. This genre of drama has been done before and Back Roads wasn’t the last movie to do this, although most of them are buddy movies where we have two unlikely male protagonists: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Scarecrow, etc. Some films may have segments of this plot within their stories, but Back Roads is pretty much entirely set where our two main characters, Amy (a cheap hooker) and Elmore (A lowlife ex-prize fighter) are out on a lamb trying to make their way to California. Back Roads offers something more special than the usual buddy film for we are treated to the possibility of romance and a deep look into humanity.
Whether you like this movie or not depends entirely on how much sympathy and love you can afford to our main characters. If there is anyone to ever be able to pull off this genteel and earnest feat, it would be Sally field. Yes, Sally Field had the girlish charm with her doll-like big eyes, her tiny figure and endearing pout. She is a hooker with a heart of gold who for some reason has fallen on the fringes of society due to unhealthy and bad life decisions. There was a time in Hollywood when a hooker’s character was treated with much more scorn and shame. But at this time in cinema, the early 1980’s, Hollywood cast a more fair light on these subjects while treating them with pity and more likability. It’s true that prostitutes and low lives are more charming on screen than in real life and we accept this by our own consent. Strangely and perhaps intentionally, Back Roads was marketed as a screwball romantic comedy. What those few viewers saw on screen was a bit more sad and serious with some dark comedy intertwined. Tommie Lee Jones does well and the chemistry between him and Sally is correct. As much as they bicker, make up, break apart and get back together, it all seems so right if not predictable. We root for them. They are not the winners of society, but they win our hearts.