Norman Jewison usually is a commanding storyteller, but In Country is a film with two stories that fail to add up to something greater: a country girl’s coming of age, and a troubled Vietnam veteran’s coming to terms with his haunting memories of war [from the novel by Bobbie Ann Mason].
Emily Lloyd, in a sparky performance that seizes control of the movie, plays Samantha Hughes, a spirited, just-minted high school graduate from the small town of Hopewell, Ky. She lives in a ramshackle house with Bruce Willis, who turns in a likable but unremarkable interpretation of her moody uncle Emmett, a veteran who has suffered lasting emotional damage from his nightmarish tour of duty in ‘Nam.
Lloyd’s father, who also served ‘in country,’ was killed in combat before she was born. She likes the freedom of living with Willis, who permits Lloyd unsupervised liaisons with her callow basketball star boyfriend (Kevin Anderson). She’s not especially close to her mother, Willis’ sister, played deftly by Joan Allen.
Willis generates sympathy for his tormented character, but the one-dimensional script and his still limited range conspire to make Emmett a stolid caricature of the spirtually wounded veteran.