War in Vietnam is raging, and two old friends from high school are determined to avoid the violence going on overseas. Robert Downey Jr. and Kruger Sutherland give sincere performances in this period drama that was not only the age of Aquarius, but the age of liberation. Women's, blacks, gays. All fighting for their piece of the pie that 200 years of American civil liberties had not really given them. If the rock and roll era of the late 1950's set up the possibility for drastic change, it was the fed-up youth of this era that put real change in motion whether traditional American society wanted it or not.
Now nearly 50 years later, the participants of all of the events which took place are grandparents, sharing their stories as society morphs into new ideals. Of course, you couldn't have a movie about this era without the music which is touching my utilized to dramatize everything going on. Generation gaps, difference in political leanings and all sorts of rebellion are seen, through a political rally that ends in violence, a high school graduation speech touching on fears for the future (delivered by Winona Ryder as Downey's younger sister), an LSD overdose and most poignantly, the fears and resentments between Sutherland and his older brother who goes off to Vietnam.
The adults seem real here, not cartoon characters or stereotypical squares just outraged by their children's behavior. It's obvious that parents had more fears than their children did, most likely having seen the horrors of the second World War which was supposed to be the last one. Bruce Dern tries to be understanding, but his character, obviously raised to be 100% patriotic, sees it all falling apart all around him. Mariette Hartley, as his wife, runs along side her soldier son's bus, screaming to him in a very tearful moment, "Don't die!" over and over again. Joanna Cassidy is Downey's mom, having a panic attack when he goes into shock following an LSD overdose.
Ernest Thompson, the author and director of "On Golden Pond", tells a warm and often funny story here, poignant and real. The brief presence of a gay character who picks both Downey and Sutherland up isn't gratuitous or homophobic, but simply a reflection of the times that showed the anger and relief that went beyond the era of the flower power. With a Maryland setting rather than big city, this gives its perspective that this hit an entire country, not just urban America.
Having wanted to see this for years and somehow missed it, I was not disappointed. It is obvious as to why Downey, Sutherland and Ryder went onto great success, even having their share of self-discovery. The generation gap my have been a serious issue, but it has probably lead to a deeper understanding between the estranged generations when the next one grew up and followed even more into rebellion than this one. This is what makes thus movie so timeless because it reflects changes in history that affect everything, including the future.