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Love and Honor

2013 | 96 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

Love and Honor


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Theatrical release date

 22 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Love and Honor Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 21, 2013

Tempted by the success of all things Nicholas Sparks, the producers of “Love and Honor” attempt their own take on the proven formula, offering a story trafficking in warm acts of attraction and nostril-flaring moments of decision. Also mirroring the Sparks touch is the picture’s distracting weightlessness, tackling a significant story of choice and heartbreak with all the impact of a soap opera, failing to find the feral emotions inherent to such a taxing series of life choices. It’s easy enough to digest, yet “Love and Honor” is capable of much more than predictable melodrama, though director Danny Mooney seems absolutely determined to ease this effort into a honeyed coma as quickly as possible.

It’s July, 1969, and the world is about to watch the crew of Apollo 11 land on the moon. In Vietnam, fast-talker Mickey (Liam Hemsworth) and his platoon are making their way through the booby-trapped landscape, led by Dalton (Austin Stowell), a fierce, concentrated soldier looking to stay alive for girlfriend Jane (Aimee Teegarden). When Dalton receives a break-up letter from Jane, he decides to use his leave to travel to Michigan and confront her, while Mickey joins the plan for support, using his loquaciousness to lighten the mood. Arriving in America, Dalton is confronted with Jane’s transformation into a hippie named Juniper, now living in a house with student radicals out to change the face of the war through journalism, including editor Peter (Chris Lowell) and writer Candace (Teresa Palmer). Looking to bend sympathies for the visiting military men, Mickey falsely suggests that he and Dalton have gone AWOL due to altered Vietnam consciousness, which instantly wins over Juniper and Candace. Handed 72 hours to make their move, the soldiers are confronted with the war at home, questioning if a return to duty is truly in their best interests.

Set during the moon landing to best symbolize the characters’ moment of peace in what has become a foreign land, “Love and Honor” takes a “Wonder Years” approach to recreating the 1960s. While wild hippie costuming is dialed down, other period trappings are emphasized, including the soundtrack, which plays like a K-tel collection of mid-range rock classics, easily afforded by a movie that clearly doesn’t have much in the way of a budget to generate an Oliver Stone-style summation of the changing tides of war. Mooney keeps the visual elements of the picture pedestrian, looking to hold attention on the characters and their personal stories of disappointment. It’s auto-pilot work from the director, who doesn’t extract the possibilities of the premise, ignoring an interesting take on shifting military attitudes to build an unconvincing romance with flashes of cultural turmoil.

“Love and Honor” doesn’t have burning desire, it has speeches. The repetitive screenplay by Jim Burnstein and Garrett K. Schiff offers long, windy confessions and stories for the personalities to share, finding Mickey particularly skilled with wartime anecdotes or heavy recollections of loss. The characters don’t interact, they simply perform for one another in an artificial manner that grows tiresome as the movie enters its second half. Only Palmer appears skilled enough to make her moments count, showing signs of life while shackled with leaden dialogue. Hemsworth doesn’t possess the charming flexibility required for the role, while Stowell’s intensity is admirable, but his stiffness shows. While the ensemble is burdened with rote writing and an unenthusiastic director, there’s little finesse provided to pull “Love and Honor” out of its stasis. However, I’m thankful the plot pops Mickey’s fraudulent AWOL story early, shooing away unnecessary contrivances that grind the picture to a halt.

The titular elements do not come to life in the movie, as the script is too reliant on cliche to generate climatic conflicts and betrayals. The final act has potential, studying Mickey and Dalton as they come to terms with their return to the front line, figuring out if their AWOL cover story should actually come true. It’s a provocative subplot, filled with challenging ideas on military duty and self-preservation, yet it’s eventually balled up and trashed to focus on heaving heartache between characters who barely know each other. Passions are expected, but mechanics are all “Love and Honor” is capable of delivering.

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Austin Stowell, Teresa Palmer (I), Aimee Teegarden, Chris Lowell, Wyatt Russell
Director: Danny Mooney

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