Summary: Jan-Michael Vincent scrapes against Robert Mitchum and Brenda Vaccaro
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Going Home" (1971) is a neo-noir, as listed by John Grant and Andrew Spicer. This explains quite a lot. It explains why the movie's central figure can be a man, Robert Mitchum, recently-released from prison after doing 13 years for killing his wife in a fit of anger. It explains a son, Jan-Michael Vincent, he hasn't seen in all that time who has visible hangups and who rapes Mitchum's girlfriend, Brenda Vaccaro, whom he is on the verge of marrying. It explains the realistic ending and the last few lines of the movie that express two ideas: time marches on without providing values or solutions and you can't go home again. Vincent attempts to go home, out of mixed motives. He's resentful over his father having killed his mother when he was 6 years old. He doesn't know why. He's angry at losing both parents and being shuffled around. He's resentful at men expressing sexual virility, and he seems to be at least problematic in that department, until he takes it all out on Vaccaro. Mitchum has much better control over his temper. Prison and parole have chastened him. In the story, he has occasion still to express a quality of powerful cat-like physical eruption at times that makes you wonder. Vaccaro is Mitchum's match this time around, the kind of woman he apparently failed to find the first time around. Mitchum and Vaccaro live near the Jersey shore and are on the margins. They're working class and working their way up. Mitchum bummed around when he was young, and Vincent has followed him in his footsteps.
The story is an American drama of the slice-of-life type as opposed to one that results in highly dramatic alterations in the people's lives. No one dies here. No one is injured. No car chases. No explosions. No great changes in people's lives that they cannot absorb or cope with. No new resentments arise. A young man's life does not suddenly find a direction. A murderer must still live with the knowledge of his crime. A long-lived tension between father and son is resolved at the cost of a rape. The victim is hurt but not irreparably.
The picture features blue collar and below atmosphere, an old beat up Dodge truck, a ratty amusement park on the pier at Cape May, bowling, and a trailer park. It features captivating acting from the three leads. The great Mitchum seems here to be accepting the acting challenge while warming up for his role 2 years later in "The Friends of Eddie Coyle". Vincent would go on to "The Mechanic" a year later, in which again he'd be paired with a father figure in Charles Bronson. Brenda Vaccaro is as dependable and down-to-earth as ever. The role she has here fits her perfectly and she fits it. What seems to be a somewhat subdued drama -- for most of its length -- actually exerts some attraction and force. It is actually good dramatic writing, realistic, that the ending has Mitchum silently and ruefully realizing that the consequences of his act didn't end when he was paroled and that they have fallen upon both Vincent and Vaccaro too.