Jane Fonda received her fourth Best Actress nomination and second Oscar for playing Sally Hyde, a naive houswife whose husband goes to Vietnam in Hal Ashby's acclaimed movie, Coming Home. Jane also won a Golden Globe for her performance and I am sure that she was the front-runner. She had the "we forgive you" factor, she lost the previous year for an awesome performance, she starred in a very hot and brave (then) movie and her main rival was a three time Oscar winner. So it was no huge surprise I guess.
Coming Home is a good, but a bit dated movie about Vietnam for which critics and audiences went wild back then. It's one of the very first openly anti-Vietnam movies and its battle with The Deer Hunter for Best Picture has become legendary. I think that finally the Academy made a right decision as The Deer Hunter is still a classic but Coming Home is just as great, if not better (actually, I would have probably voted for Coming Home). Jon Voight gives a brilliant, heart-breaking performance in the movie and he more than deserved to win the Oscar. His sadness and fury really burns the screen and certainly amazed me. Bruce Dern is awfully overacting sometimes but he's quite great and so is Penelope Milford. They both deserved the nominations.
Jane Fonda. Brilliance in human body. She's really someone we can be really grateful for. She's not only a fantastic actress, but also a great human being (and the latter helps the former, too, I think). I am always so blown away by her and her movies. She gives such special performances that I find so easy to relate to. She makes all the characters deeply human, so understandable and close to your soul. And I'm not only talking about her works in drama. I could mention her carefree young wife from Barefoot in the Park or the terrified divorcée from Nine to Five. She always gets the human out of the parts.
When we first see Sally Hyde, she's just an ordinary American houswife cooking for her husband, smiling, being kind and loving. Sally herself is a stereotype, but Julianne Moore and Judi Dench have proven that you can turn a cliché into a performance for the ages (with a great script of course and an extraordinary amount of talent). When I didn't like Jane here, I was complaining that the part was underwritten and really boring. Now that all the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into the right place, I know how wrong I was (and why I was wrong). Sally shouldn't be interesting. She has to be a very ordinary person just like most of the people on this planet. Sally is (I think) the viewer who watches Coming Home and witnesses the horrors of war (without any pictures of war). Therefore, it's so easy to relate to her and understand her feelings. I guess you should rewatch Coming Home a couple of times until you find this out. Jane's performance here is like good wine that becomes better with age. If you let her grow inside you, it's going to be a much better experience.
Sally's transformation is so real and it's both incredibly heart-breaking and uplifting to see her go through this journey. Not only do we see all her happiness, but also her fears and doubts. Her monologue to Jon Voight on the beach is just terrific and it's a very touching, gentle and quietly emotional moment that should be shown everywhere. I think that's probably my favorite moment of the whole movie.
However, it would be a scene not to mention the two sex scenes in the movie involving her. They were done very tastefully and they weren't too rough and it was so interesting to compare the emotions of Sally (and how Jane showed them). With her husband, Sally doesn't enjoy the act but she seems to be so passionate and free while being with Luke. The moment of the orgasm is (and please don't take this the wrong way) really the highlight. We see all of Sally's emotions coming to the surface and it's a brilliantly acted moment.
Moreover, Jane's presence is incredibly strong and not only because of her star power. Somehow she attracted my eyes with her personality and her confidence on the screen. I was always looking forward to the scenes of Sally because then I knew that something special was going to happen.
You might ask why I changed my mind about this performance. It might be that seasons change or I might have had a revelation. I must say, however, that for her work alone (without comparing her to anyone), Jane richly deserved the Academy Award she won for Coming Home. This performance may not be for everyone and I see why some dislike it, I think Jane's utterly brilliant and heart-breaking as Sally Hyde. Truly astonishing work by a brilliant actress.
What do you think?