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June 03, 1978 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1978-06-03

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Page 6-Saturday, June 3, 1978-The Michigan Doily
'Coming Home' tries hard, fails

By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
As with all his other movies, Hal Ash-
by's Coming Home arrives with nothing
but the most forthright and noble inten-
tions. It is nearly a year since the trend-
spotters began dutifully informing us
of the movies' next victim - Vietnam
- and it comes as no surprise that Ash-
by's attempt to grapple with the ex-
traordinary turmoil of the era has been
greeted as the first work of intelligence
to have emerged on the subject.
Coming Home is a heartfelt reflec-
tion of the general feelings of the
period, and its carefully controlled mix-
ture of anger and compassion reflects
the director's intuitive rapport
with those victimized by the
war, both at home and away.
Yet something vital is missing, and the
more one tries to pin it down, the more
elusive the whole business becomes.
THE STORY is set in Los Angeles in
1968 and revolves around Sally Hyde
(Jane Fonda), the subservient, pre-
liberation wife of a gung-ho marine
captain (Bruce Dorn) about to be sent
to Vietnam. When her husband leaves,
Sally is lonely, bored, and on her own
for the first time, so she seeks her in-
dependence by renting a house on the
beach, buying a new sports car, and
volunteering her services at a local
hospital for wounded vets.
Although there is a persistent in-
telligence about Fonda, her perfor-
mance in the opening scenes, before

Sally learns that there are other things
in life besides drinks at the officers'
club, is such an exercise in calculated
mannerisms that the change from
programmed housewife into complex,
thinking, "real" woman has an
inevitability about it that bears a strong
resemblance to the plasticized tran-
sformations undergone by Sara David-
son's heroines in Loose Change.
THE FILM gathers its emotional con-
tinuity when Sally meets Luke Martin
(Jon Voight), whom she knew vaguely
in high school, at the army hospital. A
paraplegic totally alienated by his war-
time experiences, Luke's bitterness
nevertheless only disguiseshis warmth
and boyish charm, and Sally is drawn
into an affair with him that soon
reaches idyllic proportions. As the tale
of how a crippled and embittered war
veteran finds the courage to put his
anger behind him and pursue a normal
life, Coming Home remains on solid
ground. One feels director Ashby un-
destands Luke, and has sincere ad-
miration for the humanitarianism etch-
ed into Voight's softly noble face. Scenes as
simple as one in which Sally and Luke
joyously fly a kite work beautifully,
because we have such a natural em-
pathy for the characters as human
beings in a situation with very real
tragic overtones.
The greatest credit belongs to Voight,
whose immediately ingratiating screen

presence is as powerful and direct as
Jack Nicholson's. Voight's craftsman-
ship never intrudes on Luke's sim-
plicity; the character's courage lies in
his will to transcend the degradation he
felt as a soldier and as a cripple.
BUT COMING HOME soon takes a
fatal nosedive, for things go absolutely
haywire when Bob Hyde returns. When
he discovers his wife's infidelity
through surveillence the FBI had been
keeping on Luke, it is soon clear that
"michiganDAILY
the romanticized appeal of Luke and
Sally's relationship has provided the
core of the film's emotional per-
suasiveness. Hyde, obsessed withpthe
atrocity of his experience in Vietnam, is
seemingly driven mad, but the way
Coming Home has been set up it is im-
possible to feel for him.
Had Voight been playing Dern's part,
we might have witnessed a truly,
devastating portrait of an innocent
man's transition from tenderness to
madness. Dern, however, is blatantly
unlikeable even before the war inter-
venes, whether it is because of his bad
jokes, his mindless hawkishness, or
simply the bug-eyed craziness the actor
naturally brings to all his roles,
WHEN Coming Home glibly jux-
taposes Luke and Bob's lovemaking
(we see Sally lying placid under her
husband's insensitive thrusts, while she
achieves her first orgasm with crip-
pled-but-tender Luke), the point not
only has the crudity of a TV movie, but
contradicts what later scenes ask us to
believe. By emphasizing the straight-
backed stuffiness of Sally's relationship
with her husband, the film later rests on
shaky ground when it expects us to ac-
cept her unmitigated longing to return

to him. When Dern engages in a
drinking party with the boys, what
comes across is not anything the war
did to him, but simply that he is such a
boorish, insensitive lout.
The lack of conviction behind the
relationships hinging on Dern's charac-
ter renders the film's politics ab-
solutely inane. Coming Home presents
human relationships gone amok, then
slickly hangs the blame on the war. The
contrasting of the two men's bedside
manner epitomizes the manipulation of
character nuances into mindless anti-
war propaganda.
A SCENE in which the brother
(Robert Carradine) of Sally's friend Vi
commits suicide by shooting air into his
veins in front of thirty horrified hospital
patients rings as falsely as the
hopelessly contrived suicide in Satur-
day Night Fever, because it is only
there to make its point about what the
war did to Americans. And the point it-
self is not wholly well-taken. Surely the
brother did not take his life because of
his political opposition to war in In-
dochina; are we therefore to blame
Vietnam or the institution of war in
general?
If Shampoo left any doubts, then
Coming Home makes it clear: Hal Ash-
by is a craftsman, not a thinker, and
even his most affecting scenes are
prone to conceptual fuzziness. It is ob-
vious from the way the film's
ubiquitous 60s rocksoundtrack is
arranged (Dern says his men were
chopping victim's heads off, and we
hear the savage, voodooistic drums of
"Sympathy for the Devil"), and from
the token, see-what-was-happening-to-
the country references to the King and
Kennedy assassinations, that Ashby's
concocted effects are no replacement
for an articulate synthesis of ideas. Asa
collection of individual scenes Coming
Home displays an intuitive sensitivity
to the tumultuous emotions of the Viet-
nam era. As a unified work, the film
strews about its half-baked ideas like
so much confetti, and at the end we're
left with nothing but a handful of loose
ends.

RECORDS

Columbia has recently released a
recording the Budapest String Quartet
made in 1955 of the Sibelius String
Quartet in D minor, op. 56 and Greig's
String Quartet in G minor, op. 27.
Frankly, both could have been left on
the shelves to gather dust.
The Sibelius opens with a lyric An-
dante, carried mainly by the violins,
which leadds into an Allegro Molto
Moderato, sounding very heavy due to
the lower strings carrying the not too
interesting melody. The Vivace has
some redeeming qualities, with the
cello and viola playing triplets as the
upper strings meander,
HOWEVER THE following three
movements seem determined to define
the word eternity, keeping us as bored
as can be, without another small
respite. As Sibelius said, "I am myself
a man of the orchestra. You must judge
Good things come from above me for my orchestral works." The Finn
was no fool.
President Jimmy Carter admires the faceted glass roof of the new East Building The Greig, on the other hand, fairs
of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which was dedicated by the Presi- slightly better. The first movement (Un
dent Thursday. From left are J. Carter Brown, director of the gallery; I.M. poco Andante; Alle ro Motto) has a
i, the building;s -desiguer- Preside t-tarter; Mrs. Paul jon, whosefamily gushy s,'ypy o' 'tic th meThy"

strings particularly crisp. The Roman-
ze: Andantino oscillates from eager ex-
citement to blissful calm and is nicely
done. While the third movement is
somewhat majestic and humorous, the
fourth and final movement (Finale:
Lento: Presto al Saltarello) is the best,
especially the Presto, which skips along
and gets somewhat frenzied with
strains reminiscent of the Finale of
Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.
The Quartet plays with both con-
siderable skill and adeptness, but un-
fortunately neither of the selections are
truly exciting compositions.
-Stephen Pickover
SPRING
ARTS STAFF
ARTS EDITOR
Owen Gleiberman
ARTS STAFF: Michael Baadke. Bll Barhour. Susan
Barry, Karen Bornstein, Patricia Fabrizio. Douglas
Heller. Paula Hunter, Matthew Kletter. Peter Manic.
Joshua Peck.stephen Pickover,_Christoher Potter.
Je r lsy miShar , Ericl~it r, =;'.Yr th

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