Eddie Birdlace (Phoenix) is a U.S. Marine on a somewhat unorthodox mission. It’s 1963, and on the eve of shipping out to in the early days of the Vietnam “conflict,” he and his buddies stroll the streets of San Francisco looking for the ugliest girl to bring as a date to a “dogfight” — a mean-spirited party in which the solider who finds the most hideous girl takes home a cash prize. When Eddie spies the homely Rose (Taylor) working at a diner, he believes he’s struck gold. However, Rose turns out to be more than he bargained for, and their evening together will change both of their lives forever.
In director Savoca’s capable hands, her two talented young leads become the center of a delicate yet totally credible film romance. Eddie’s striking handsomeness and glib charm initially overpower plain homebody Rose, but as the film gradually exposes her depths, the tables turn, revealing her to be every bit his equal and — just perhaps — his perfect match. All along the way, the two young actors light up the screen, and each other. “Dogfight” is one undervalued gem well worth discovering.