"Norma Rae" As a single mother who strives to better her workplace by unionizing, Sally Field takes on a role that's filled with turmoil and trials. "Norma Rae" won her the Best Actress Academy Award, so you get to know before diving in that she, once again, is performing at an incredible level. Her depiction of a parent, a child and a worker who all have their own troubles to surmount puts you in the moment, cheering her on and that's a rarity to be treasured.
"Smokey and the Bandit" A comedy where Sally Field shows she can match comedy chops and wit with Burt Reynolds without being shoved into the corner as a pretty face that takes up space. It's an earnest movie in that it doesn't try to teach morality on the side or have an overarching message of world peace. No, it's about pulling one over on the local corrupt sheriff by a cowboyesque criminal. Field gives as good as she gets in "Smokey and the Bandit" and that protects the movie from having the dead space where a supporting actor can't keep up with the lead. This kind of disparity feels like a rash across the screen, annoying and visible to everyone.
"Steel Magnolias" When you have a movie that centers on the antics of one gender primarily, you either expect or risk the alienation of the opposite gender. With "Steel Magnolias," the story and the acting are both powerful enough and center on the basis of friendship and love with a focus that is so crystal clear that both men and women get their hearts hit equally hard. Her performance during the funeral ensures no eye is left dry and no soul is left unmoved. A Sally Field womens movie that needs to be seen so that it can be felt.
"Forrest Gump" A role can have an immense influence over other characters and the film itself inversely to the actual screen time. As Forrest's mother, Sally Field exerts an enveloping warmth and belief that never feels like it leaves Forrest, even after the death of her character. Hers is a role born of the struggles raising him on her own while helping him deal with his disabilities as well as needing to prepare him for the time when he would be on his own permanently and she performs magnificently. Moms in film often come off a bit askew as shallow images of the truth the audience knows, but Sally Field's isn't a version of motherhood; it's a vassal where all that is the essence of a mother is held within. "Forrest Gump" is the body while Sally Field is the heart.