Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Reviewed on 2011 July 30
This is the painful story of Ron Kovic, a Viet Nam vet that came home, paralyzed, and decided to protest the war and call attention to the plight of men coming home after serving in country. It was directed by Oliver Stone and co-written by both Stone and Kovic.
Kovic (Tom Cruise) wants nothing more than to serve his country in Viet Nam, following in the footsteps of his WWII vet father. His parents are, of course, terrified for him, but Ron wants to show his love of country. A Marine recruiter comes to his high school and does the rest, swaying him so completely he packs to leave instead of attending (most of) his own prom. After a horrible attack on the battlefield, Ron’s life is changed irrevocably. He’s paralyzed, and when he finally makes it home he sees that the small town he left behind is almost an alien landscape.
I admit that I didn’t like this the first time I watched it, but watching it last night, I had a new appreciation for it. This viewing the changed town and times, and his reaction to them (and the hippies’ reaction to him) hit me harder. Stone may stretch things more than other directors to make his point, but he got the turbulence of the late ’60s, and how hard it must have been for the returning vet, with a few images. I don’t even like Cruise very much and yet he got my heart to break for Kovic, not getting anyone to listen to him or just let him vent when he first came home. I’ve heard more than once that VA hospitals were pretty bad back then. If half of what was depicted in this movie went on in those hospitals it’s twice the miracle that Kovic is alive.
Three chocolate morsels.