Sunday, September 16, 2007

Coming Home

Coming Home; Drama, USA, 1978; D: Hal Ashby, S: Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern, Penelope Milford, Robert Carradine, Mary Gregory

Sally is married to the conservative Bob, Captain of the US army, who pretty much tells her everything what to do and she complies. One day he goes to fight in the Vietnam war while Sally stays all alone at home. She becomes friends with Viola, whose husband has also gone to war, and having nothing to do, she volunteers out of loyalty at a local veteran's hospital, where she meets Luke, a former soldier left paralyzed to a wheelchair. Even though she is disturbed to find out he is strongly against the war, she slowly falls in love with him, eventually starting to think for herself. The couple spends a few nice days together, until Bob returns home and discovers their affair, but Sally admits that she doesn't love him anymore. While Luke is holding a speech at some convention, Bob goes to the beach and swims naked in the Ocean.

Winner of 3 Oscars (best actress Jane Fonda, actor Jon Voight, screenplay) out of 8 nominations, 2 Golden Globes (best actress Jane Fonda, actor Jon Voight) and one nomination for the Golden Palm in Cannes, "Coming Home" isn't as fresh today as it was back in 1978, but it's still an impressive and subtle antiwar film that didn't even show one scene that plays out on the battlefield, but just the consequences of war (paralyzed and traumatized veterans) by which the film as a whole seems less intense, but more even and elegant than excellent, but pretentious Oscar favorite "The Deer Hunter" released the same year. Hal Ashby was in the 70s a sly master of opulent, downplayed directing, loved his characters and humanized them even though they were flawed, while the critique of the Vietnam war neatly blended into his worldview - "Coming Home" is a product of liberal artists, not only from Ashby but also from Jane Fonda and screenwriters Robert C. Jones and Waldo Salt who constructed the story as a fluctuation of the heroine Sally from right-wing to left-wing belief, symbolically embodied in her husband Bob and unconventional lover Luke. In one especially powerful scene, Bob declares: "Television shows how the war looks like, but it doesn't show how the war really is". The exposition and the ending are wavering, occasional moments clumsy and some have criticized the film for egregiously promoting liberal views, but elaborated details (scenes where Luke, paralyzed throughout the film to the wheelchair, shops in a supermarket or drives a car with the help of extension), one of the most unusual love scenes of all time, the one with Sally and paraplegic Luke in bed, and excellent songs lift the film into something better as a whole.


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