The Trial of Jane Fonda
- Lorna Irvine
- 2 August 2014
This article is from 2014.
Phenomenal performance by Anne Archer in exploration of the Hanoi Jane incident
In 1972 when US screen legend Jane Fonda posed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, opposing the Vietnam War, an American backlash ensued, with Fonda portrayed as a Communist and unpatriotic, despite the hippy movement. Another silver screen star, Anne Archer, directed by husband Terry Jastrow (also the writer) explores the aftermath.
It is 1988, and Fonda is due to shoot a movie with Robert De Niro in the town of Waterbury, Connecticut , where she has been invited by Reverend John Clarke (John Sackville) to face her toughest audience yet- a small group of Vietnam vets- in his church, attempting to account for her actions.
Initially, Fonda is stiff and patronising on meeting the men, with a steely-eyed glare suggesting superiority. But it becomes clear it is bravado, betraying her fear. Archer is perfectly cast, her stately beauty a secondary concern: for, far from being a poster girl peacenik, her anti-war stance is articulate and informed, stating that she was made a media pawn, her debate based on her father's psychological scars from World War II.
It would be easy to portray Jane Fonda's blow for free speech in purely one-sided terms. Jay Benedict's veteran Archie Bellows, for example, lives up to his name and his friend Tommy Lee Cook (an excellent Greg Patmore) is less willing to yield to Fonda's argument - a jingoistic, swaggering Republican whose idea of discussion is domination with casual threats and sexist putdowns. But nothing is so simple :the newsreels on the screen show US men with missing limbs and Vietnamese children's bodies piled up. Fonda's defiance is equal to the men's, and it is Donny Simpson (Ian Virgo) in his wheelchair who is first to forgive, rising to embrace her.
A nuanced, chilling production, augmented by Archer's phenomenal performance, this is sure to provoke debate long after its run.
Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008 until Aug 24 (not 11), 4.05 pm, £16 (£13)