An American Story Reviews
4 May 2012 | by Paul Werner (United States) - See all my reviews
While it is true that one of the key themes of the movie is the 2d Amendment protections that are afforded to all other aspects of our Constitutional government, it occupies only the last 10-15 minutes of the entire movie.
Much of the movie is devoted to several other themes that were as important in 1946 as they are today. This involved reintegration of veterans back into a society that largely misunderstood what the veterans had to do to win the war. It also covers the time honored tradition of never leaving a Soldier behind. One truism that comes to light is that the friendships and loyalties that are gained in war are meant to last a lifetime. This concept gets put to the test repeatedly in the movie. The first time involved when Jesse Meadows (Tom Sizemore) made his political debate with Tom Cantrell (G.W. Bailey) in the town square. Cantrell knew that Meadows was a wounded veteran and sought to exploit this and mock Meadows in front of the town citizens. When it was apparent that Meadows was not working from a full deck and was being humiliated by Cantrell, it was at that point that George Meade (Brad Johnson) was shamed into recovering his comrade Jesse meadows and he pulled him from the podium. It was a defining moment in the film for Meade and it was then that he knew he would have to run for mayor.
The other instance about war friendships involved Juan Medina. George Meade took the lead of his father who addressed the political reality that his ticket would not get elected with a "Mexican" on the ticket. That was a reality in 1940s Tennessee, but not a reality on the battlefield. On the battlefield, color and race does not matter. All, are brothers in arms. The society that these veterans reintegrated into had not changed, but the veterans had changed. This topic resurfaces at the very end when Medina comes to the aid of the veterans in their time of need to lay the charges to blow the doors off of the jail.
Another topic was addressed very well, particularly for the WWII setting. As most able bodied men were sent off to war, most of the women had to manage affairs at the home front. This was displayed very well when Jesse Meadows returned home to find his wife Becky Meadows (Lisa Blount), had not only kept their business alive, but actually made it thrive during a war time economy. This set up a lot of tension between husband and wife, but was ultimately resolved at the end.
An underlying theme throughout all of the interactions of the veterans and their return home was the deep, underlying corruption that had metastasized in the county. It was pervasive and everywhere. Not only was Tom Cantrell the chief architect who led war profiteering by squeezing the citizens of the town, but he used sheriff McMillan (John M. Jackson) to do his dirty work and keep his hands clean and not have any corruption directly traceable back to him.
The acting was fairly good and Brad Johnson played a credible role as the coming of age reluctant war hero. Sometimes a hero is thrust into the limelight whether they want it or not. Patricia Clarkson played a superb role as the conniving, manipulative wife who was engineering her husband's career to success. Once Brad Johnson made a principled stand, she broke ranks with him and left him to his own devices. Her line about "not standing by a loser" was a classic. Tom Sizemore did a pretty credible job as the wounded war veteran returning home to a life he did not expect. It was tough to not see SFC Horvath (Of Saving Private Ryan fame) in the character of Jesse meadows, albeit from the perspective of a war wounded veteran. Josef Sommer also put in a credible performance as George Meade's father. Kathleen Quinlan always saw the world from the way she wanted it to be, and reluctantly refused to acknowledge the way that it truly was. The best example of this was her dressing down of George Meade regarding the town's racism of the war hero, Juan Medina.
Probably one of the most disappointing elements of the movie was the ending. The denouement was virtually nonexistent and that was a big disappointment. I think most of the viewers of the movie would have liked to have known the answers to any of these questions: 1) Did George actually get elected as mayor (it is hinted, but not confirmed; 2) Did Juan Medina stay and raise his family in the town?; 3) Was Tom Cantrell and Sheriff McMillan ever arrested?; 4) Did Jesse Meadows ultimately concede running of the business to his wife?; 5) Did George ultimately dump his wife when he realized her true colors...and so on. I think the directors/producers could have wrapped those details up in a 5-8 minute additional post climax segment.
So you might be wondering, why is this movie not readily available on NetFlix or Hulu? One of the overarching themes in this movie is that the 2d Amendment is the ultimate guarantor of all other rights found in the Constitution. This concept does not fit the leftist/Utopian world view and as such, is not permitted to be known or shown. Because of this, it is somewhat of a modern miracle this true life story of the "Battle of Athens" Tennessee was ever made. Given the current political climate today and the undercurrent of election stealing and voter fraud that is being addressed with nearly 35+ states passing voter ID laws, this movie is very timely and topical. It is well worth the viewing just to reinforce the importance of the need for the 2d Amendment, but all of the other themes of the movie, definitely makes it worthwhile.