Even Lassie would have gone elsewhere if “Coming Home” proved as empty as this movie. Shabby on politics, contemptuous of women, and superficial toward the disabled, the film drenches the audience with a nostalgic rush of ’60s music and administers an overdose of syrup-thick emotionalism — tawdry substitutes for historical accuracy.
Coming Home reduces the anti-war movement to a one-man show starring Jon Voight as a paraplegic involved in a personal struggle against the abuse and inadequate care suffered by wounded veterans of America’s war machine. Except for one act of camaraderie in which he chains himself to the army-base gate to protest the tragic suicide of a fellow patient, Voight is alone in speaking out against the war’s nightmarish aftermath.
Jane Fonda, well-remembered for dazzling thousands of protesters with her impassioned anti-war speeches ten years ago, plays a Marine officer’s wife. Nice, and socially-conscious, she becomes a hospital volunteer after literally tripping over Voight and other war relics in the local VA hospital. To improve the wounded vets’ lot, she fights the Establishment as personified by the Officers’ Wives Club!
Fonda’s cheerleader role as a passive convenience for her husband, whose real wife is the Marine Corps, is presented uncritically in the film. The woman from whom Fonda bought the script for Coming Home has publicly denounced the sexist rewrite used by the producers, which conveys the message that men get ideas and women get the men.
The film ventures onto a little realism in its depiction of wounded veterans, but even this foray goes Hollywood. The massive physical and psychological changes demanded of individuals suffering a disability are barely noted. And there is no real hint of the years of lonely, painful, and boring inactivity ahead for those maimed by war and then warehoused as defectives in the nation’s VA hospitals and nursing homes.
On the contrary, we are led to believe that a paraplegic’s woes can be solved with a specially equipped fast car and an occasional call girl. And if things get too bad, there’s always suicide.
Coming Home, with its treacly theme of sorrow and pity and social work, just recreates the confusion of the ’60s when many people had to learn that wars don’t stop simply because critics deplore them. Wars and shocking neglect of the wounded will continue so long as they are politically necessary for private profit.
The war was stopped by a vast radicalization and mass protest that forced the U.S. troops into coming home. And the atrocities of chronic war and terrible victimizations will be stopped for all time by socialist revolution alone. But you’d never even guess at anything of this nature by viewing the film, which is neither anti-war nor anti-establishment nor anti-male-chauvinist. Stay home ‘on this one.