Born on the Fourth of July | Chicago Reader

Born on the Fourth of July

Rated R 144 minutes 1990

Ron Kovic's autobiography, which recounts his conversion from patriotic enlisted marine to paraplegic demonstrator against the Vietnam war, isn't a very literary book, although it uses some very literary devices (frequent time leaps, switches between first and third person) to approach the intensity of the traumas it deals with. Oliver Stone's well-intentioned but faltering 1989 adaptation, scripted by Stone in collaboration with Kovic and starring Tom Cruise, eschews this approach for an episodic linear plot that doesn't allow us to see Kovic's conversion develop with any complexity. (As he showed in Platoon, Stone knows a lot about fighting in Vietnam, but he knows much less about being an antiwar activist, which is equally important to Kovic's story; the movie's demonstrations tend to be as blurry and as cliched as its nostalgic evocations of the American dream.) Stone's unfortunate penchant for psychologizing leads to a number of murky suggestions here, such as the notion that Kovic's warmongering instincts were somehow tied to the refusal of his mother (Caroline Kava) to let him read Playboy. Worst of all, the movie's conventional showbiz finale, brimming with false uplift, implies that the traumas of other mutilated and disillusioned Vietnam veterans can easily be overcome if they write books and turn themselves into celebrities. Two powerful scenes--a fight between Kovic and his mother and Kovic's visit with the family of a corporal from Georgia he accidentally killed--do justice to the emotional conflicts the film mainly skitters around, and there are other affecting moments, but it's symptomatic of Stone's uncertainties that he substitutes awkward literary references (to Johnny Got His Gun and All Quiet on the Western Front) for the concerted expressiveness that he wants to achieve himself. The problem may ultimately be a generic one: feeling sorry for Cruise is a lot different from feeling sorry for Kovic. With Kyra Sedgwick, Raymond J. Barry, Jerry Levine, Frank Whaley, Willem Dafoe, and the late Abbie Hoffman in a very touching cameo as a campus strike organizer.

Film Credits

Director: Oliver Stone

Producer: A. Kitman Ho and Oliver Stone

Cast: Tom Cruise, Willem Dafoe, Kyra Sedgwick, Raymond Barry, Caroline Kava, Bryan Larkin, Jerry Levine, Josh Evans, Jamie Talisman, Anne Bobby, Frank Whaley, John Getz, David Warshofsky, Corkey Ford, Rocky Carroll, Tony Frank, Jayne Haynes and Cordelia Gonzalez

Show Times

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Born on the Fourth of July

Add a review

Rating

Select a star to rate.