Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coming Home

Coming Home (Hal Ashby, 1978) [8]

By eschewing a heavily polemic view of the Vietnam era, and instead focusing on a love story, Coming Home is a film that is much more thoughtful and accessible than if you were to look who made it. It's a thoughtful, earnest film that's never preachy and while it doesn't want to tell you how to think, it really reinforces that the conflict in Vietnam hurt more than it helped. Jane Fonda plays Sally Hyde, a wife of a Marine captain (Bruce Dern) that decides to volunteer at a VA hospital in her husband's absence. She meets Luke (Jon Voight), a former high school classmate and veteran who became a paraplegic. The two form a romantic relationship as both Sally and Luke have to come to terms with how the war is/has changed them. Sally, always the obedient wife in the shadows, really comes to grips with how many men are coming back from the war scarred, physically and psychologically. Luke has to adjust to a world where everyone is trying their best to ignore that a war even happened. Looking back on this and knowing Fonda and some of the other actors' political history, the film is remarkably rational and thoughtful. Even though the war may have been wrong, the film still shows compassion for those who fought it. Conservatives may not agree but their idea of a accurate portrayal of Vietnam would be The Green Berets. A lot of credit has to go to Hal Ashby to recognize that the personal story in these characters still takes precedent over making a political point. The film is an anti-war movie but it attempts to address and understand veteran's issues that not many at the time would want to hear about. Ashby knows how to get the best out of the actors, to make them well thought out people with earned problems and emotions rather than a series of symbols. It leads to an ending that is incredibly effective as well as a right way to end. While it has no battle sequences or military analysis, Coming Home is still one of the more honest portrayals of the Vietnam era put on film.

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