Love and Honor (2013) / Drama-Romance
MPAA rated: PG-13 for drug content, sexuality, language and brief violence
Length: 96 min.
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Austin Stowell, Teresa Palmer, Aimee Teegarden, Chris Lowell, Wyatt Ryssell, Delvon Roe, Max Adler
Director: Danny Mooney
Screenplay: Jim Burnstein, Garrett K. Schiff
Review published February 18, 2013
Love and Honor is set in July, 1969, at the height of not only the Vietnam War, the hippie movement, and the protests, but also during the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The film starts off in Vietnam, where two soldiers, an all-business trap spotter volunteer named Dalton Joiner (Stowell, Dolphin Tale), and his jokey compatriot on the radio, Mickey Wright (Hemsworth, The Hunger Games), are ambushed only to be saved at the last second from certain death by another of their troop, Burns (Adler, Wolf Town), who takes the brunt of the attack in the attempt. The beleaguered troop is thereafter granted a whole week of R&R. It doesn't matter where they go, so long as they are all report back within the week. most of the men aim to spend time carousing in Hong Kong, but Joiner, who has just been sent a letter from his hometown sweetheart breaking off their relationship, decides he is going to head back home and propose to his Janey (Teegarden, Scream 4), thinking what she really needs is some hope to hold on to. Meanwhile, best bud Mickey tags along to offer his support.
Upon arrival, Joiner is surprised to find a group of other youths cohabitating the Ann Arbor, Michigan house where he knows Janey to reside. Turns out that Janey is no longer a 'Jane', but now goes by her hippie name of 'Juniper', and she has given up on the relationship now that her and her new college friends have become anti-war protesters who've turned the house into a commune, even putting out their own newsletter in solidarity to end the madness that is going on in Vietnam. The presence of the men in Army garb riles up the hippies' nest, but the silver-tongued Mickey, who has a rep for spinning great yarns, immediately makes them heroes in their eyes by claiming they are there after they've deserted their posts in protest of the unjust war. Not only is Juniper impressed enough to jump in Joiner's arms, but Mickey's faux-bravery melts the icy disposition of Candace (Palmer, Warm Bodies), one of the underground newsletter's writers, who wants to write an exposť on the two 'AWOL' men's desertion.
Love and Honor is helmed by actor and first-time feature-film director Danny Mooney, and while the story itself isn't dynamic enough to truly deliver a compelling movie, there is an ease to his storytelling that keeps the oft-formulaic script by Jim Burnstein (Renaissance Man, D3: The Mighty Ducks) and Garrett K. Schiff (Angels in the Infield, Naughty or Nice) afloat much of the time. While the actors are likeable and the conflicts within the story offer a few moments of interesting reflection, for the most part, the main reason why the film fails to ultimately make a connection is in the blandness of the material itself. However, for those who enjoy tales of young romance, it's actually a decent sudser most of the way, until it comes unhinged in a terrible development late in the film involving having to get one of the two men out of trouble, as well as an ending whereby two of the characters toss out the 'L' word as if it means something when we all know that these two have known each other only a few days, and have only connected in one of them.
The Apollo 11 launch sets up the period, and it is used somewhat in the thematic play of the film, wit the hippies looking at the event as a means for the media to distract the public from the atrocities of Vietnam, while those who were fighting in the rice paddies are so far removed from any events not going on immediately in front of them that they can't understand such an event's significance, especially as they don't know if they are going to live one more day.
The story doesn't take side between the peaceniks and the soldiers except to state that, regardless of differences, the soldiers should be respected for what they do, regardless of whether the political cause is just or warranted. The tone is one of healing and understanding, which may sit well for the, "can't we all just get along crowd," that likes positive messages that are simplistically middle ground.
There will be an audience out there for Love and Honor, and I suspect this will be the same audience who will put up pictures of hunky Liam Hemsworth up on their walls. He does get his chance to take his shirt off on a number of occasions, and to be shown smooth-talking the ladies, which I'm sure will make him seem quite dreamy to the right crowd. Fans of films on Disney (not surprisingly, the screenwriters have done much of their scripting work for Disney projects), Hallmark, and Lifetime will eat much more of this up than others. All in all, it's a well-meaning and occasionally well done piece that needs a bit more grit and realism to shake off the magical pixie dust of forced feel-good movie magic.
©2013 Vince Leo