Picks and Pans Review: Blaze

updated 01/08/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/08/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Paul Newman, Lolita Davidovich

There's some charm in a love story about a Louisiana Governor in his 60s, Newman, who falls for a stripper in her 20s, Davidovich. And surely there's a lesson when she says, "You know, in a certain way, we're both part of show business," and he replies, "You are catching on to the whole idea of government."

They're playing real people, though: three-time Louisiana Gov. Earl Long and stripper Blaze Starr. So it's more than a bit discomfiting that this movie—taken lock, stock and G-string from Starr's book Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry—portrays her as a cross between Joan of Arc and Susan B. Anthony. While everyone else is deriding Long as a buffoon and lecher, she prizes him as a social crusader. Even her speech patterns seem to be elevated. "Your political instincts are clouded by the aroma of my perfume," Davidovich observes at one point.

Nowhere is there mention of the fact that Long was married throughout his affair with Starr—which would have made for a more interesting, and more honest, movie.

Newman, adding to his life list of historical rapscallions that includes Buffalo Bill and Judge Roy Bean, overdoes the cagey codger stuff but is still fun to watch. Davidovich doesn't approach the seductiveness standard for film strippers that Valerie Perrine set in Lenny but can still view this as a takeoff career move.

Director Ron (Bull Durham) Shelton can never get around the problem of having to treat racism as a subplot to what is essentially a romance—and often a romantic comedy. The whole project is too tinged with uneasy moments to be casually enjoyable and is too casual to pass for historical drama. (R)

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