We move on to the second half of our Jane Fonda retrospective as she stars in a very timely film that looks at the after-effects of the Vietnam War on the men who fight it. That film was Coming Home in which Fonda plays Sally Hyde, the wife to loyal Marine Captain Bob.
As Bob journeys to Vietnam, Sally changes aspects about her life – she buys a new car, stops straightening her hair and gets a new apartment near the beach. Sally also starts working as a volunteer at the VA Hospital where she meets an old school acquaintance in Luke Martin, who lost the use of his legs in Vietnam. Luke has since become a depressive who lashes out at everyone around him, but Sally’s presence in his life sees him being lifted from his depression. As their relationship grows, Sally and Luke find themselves attracted to one another but Sally is forced to meet up with Bob in Hong Kong. However, on her return, she finds out that Luke has been released from hospital and now has his own apartment. But the death of one of the hospital’s patients has a profound effect on Luke who decides to start protesting the war. Sally tries to stand by him, but Bob’s return from the war sees her torn between the men in her life.
I have to say I really enjoyed Coming Home however, once again, I felt that Jane Fonda overplayed her role as Sally, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar at that year’s ceremony. In fact, her performance was really the only negative in a film that had a lot to say about the Vietnam War and why people were protesting it. While Hal Ashby’s political views were somewhat overtly portrayed, I never found the film to be particularly preachy and the fact that the film’s hero was incredibly flawed was a good move. Best Actor winner Jon Voight was absolutely excellent in his role as the depressive Luke with the actor successfully portraying Luke’s transition from angry cripple to inspiring public speaker. The supporting performances were equally as good with Bruce Dern giving a great turn as Bob, the archetypal military man and the complete opposite of Luke. I also enjoyed Penelope Milford as Sally’s friend Vi, who was portrayed as a freeing influence on Sally but at the same time had moments of drama due to her brother’s death. One of the reviews I read of Coming Home said that the soundtrack was overly explicit, but I personally felt every track added to the mood of the film. From ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Ruby Tuesday’ to ‘Born to Be Wild’ and the excellent ‘Just Like a Woman’ this was a bumper collection of 1960s rock classics and I enjoyed every one of them. On the whole Hal Ashby’s film had a lot of great moments, performances and songs but again was let down by an OTT performance from Fonda.