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In 1950, life as usual in a middle-American town. Cold War paranoia is beginning; the young men's biggest concern is the draft board and deferments from the peacetime army. Then the Korean War begins, and the Greer family starts to worry: kid brother Jack, courting the lovely daughter of the draft board chairman, is next on the list. A character study examining American attitudes of that era. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dark, seething, fascinating look at patriotism, reaction to war
Clearly this movie was meant by Goldwyn to be comparable to Best Years of Our Lives. The difficulties with such an effort are that:
a) this movie looks at the beginning, not the end of a war - at the trepidation, the dislocation and sacrifice -- not the sweet relief of an ordeal over and the prospects for improvement in one's welfare; and
b) like all wars America has been in since W.W.II, Korea was not a "total war" (engrossing and engulfing the lives of all in the country) but instead one in which a peacetime prosperity and security continued for those at home while a relative handful out of the American population bore the entire brunt.
These factors produce a very different movie than Best Years - a movie of families riven by conflict over the disparity of the sacrifice, over whether to seek to avoid that sacrifice, over basic feelings about what is personally owed to the country (rather than self or family), and over the pride or shame in participation in a war.
The movie seethes with conflict and bad blood - often unspoken. The conflicts arise over deeply felt divisions in social class, in gender and in generation, and result in unspoken accusations of callousness and cowardice, vanity and selfishness.
In many respects this is a movie of another time - these days, unless a family has a strong military tradition, I can imagine few families now enraged by a son's expressed wish that a war could be won without his involvement, few families in which an employer would not draft a letter for his decades-long employee's only child to keep him out of war - and even refuse to write a letter (for which his mother pleads) for his own beloved brother's draft deferment.
One sees many views of war and patriotic obligation in this movie: views that deeply clash with one another, views that are expressed with strong emotion and that upset others.
The only comparable scene in Best Years of Our Lives is the darkest - the scene with Dana Andrews and the cynical customer at the soda fountain. Best Years is a far warmer and more optimistic movie (despite the predicament of the protagonists). In Best Years, one always senses that one day, there will be a workable re-adjustment.
In "I Want You", one has no such assurance - and it contributes to making this very realistic, often grim, and altogether fascinating.
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