Comedy icon Carol Burnett is handed THE dramatic role of her career and passes with flying colors. As flag-waving mother-turned-war activist Peg Mullen, Burnett buries her legendary elastic face and broad gestures with startling, subtle conviction and lends bitter truth to the quietly distraught but unstoppable Mullen, a woman on a mission who learns to fight back with every untruth she is being fed. The scene where she visits her son's casket at the funeral home will haunt any viewer for a long time to come. Who would have thought Burnett would be up to this arduous task? Kudos to the producers for such a daring, valiant choice. Mullen, who grew up red-white-and-blue proud, went on, by the way, to serve as a significant symbol of protest against the Vietnam war, prompting the government to give unbiased, accurate accounts of military casualties.
Ned Beatty provides able support as the dutiful, grief-stricken husband who finds it just as difficult coping with the fact that his son died mysteriously by "friendly fire" (American artillery fire)during maneuvers than by heroism. Less committed to tackling government indifference and lies, he shows the inner turmoil of a man forced to stand in the shadows of his wife's newly-found obsession and celebrity, a move which threatens home and hearth. Timothy Hutton effectively portrays the neglected younger son who handles his grief in silence as well. Dennis Erdman as the older, ill-fated son, is superior appearing in war-time flashbacks to reveal the sad truth behind his unnecessary death. Sam Waterston as a well-meaning journalist shows appropriate strength and exasperation as a man caught between helping Mullen and fighting department politics himself.
But first and foremost, this is Burnett's show. For anyone who thinks of her as a limited, one-note slapstick queen will think again after witnessing this performance. Surprisingly, she lost the Emmy award for this once-in-a-lifetime role to Bette Davis, better known for her larger-than-life acting histrionics as well.
A must see TV mini-movie.