I loved the picture, without being blind to its faults. But you don't judge a movie with a scorecard but by what it gives you, and this one gives more than anything I've seen in months. [04 Oct 1991, p.D1]
Dogfight isn't a love story so much as a story about how a young woman helps a confused teenage boy to discover his own better nature. The fact that his discoveries take place on the night before he ships out to fight the war in Vietnam only makes the story more poignant.
Savoca skilfully negotiates the nastiness of the opening scenes: four Marines organise a party, the object of which is to see who can bring along the most unattractive date. She is almost as successful with the potentially maudlin central section, after Phoenix has picked up Taylor, and remorse segues into affection and tenderness.
The bringing together of a soldier headed for Vietnam and a future hippie on the night before President Kennedy’s assassination represents a frightfully schematic screenwriting device. But Savoca underplays the character development to such an extent that the film has a muted, very modest impact.
It’s not that Dogfight doesn’t have any story. In fact it has two, but neither one has anything like the weight of a feature, and the connection between the two is too tenuous for even a director as capable as Nancy Savoca (making her first film since the much-lauded True Love) to bridge.
The film, directed by Nancy Savoca (True Love) from a screenplay by Bob Comfort, is one of those sensitive dramas that defines its sensitivity by how brutally it can hammer the audience into feeling pity for its characters. [04 Oct 1991, p.L]