Scott and Ralph (Sutherland and Downey), two small-town class-of- 67 high school graduates, venture off to college to sow some wild oats and stay one step ahead of the draft board. But when Ralph is expelled from school, h... more »e suddenly becomes a prime candidate for serving in his country's armed forces. And when the lifelong friends take drastic and illegal measures to ensure Ralph's freedom, they trigger a chain of events that will forever change theirfriendship, their lives and how a town thinks of war.« less
"Robert Downey Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, Bruce Dern, Winona Ryder, Mariette Hartley star in a movie about the Music, The Anger(Remember Riots & Revolution in the streets), and The Innocence of a generation who believed they could change the world!At the end of the 1960s, Scott and Ralph, two college kids from a stuffy, upper-middle class suburban town, decide to spend the summer on the road, living out of their van and experiencing all the freedom the counterculture(Hippie)has to offer. Family conflicts and the harsh realities of the war in Vietnam, however, interfere with their idyll. Scott's older brother, who Scott self-rightously criticized for going to war, is reported missing in action and then comes home in a casket. Then Ralph is arrested for stealing his file from the draft board to avoid duty. Before their "last summer of innocence" is over, Scott and Ralph learn that there's more to being radicals than just drop out and tuning in.If you were there or wish you had been 1969 is the movie for you!96 minutes, Rated R"
Surprisingly good and timely anti-war "period piece"
Allan Brain | Houston, TX USA | 03/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1969 is very special to me. I graduated from high school, went to Woodstock, and attended every anti-war event I could find. I would be inclined to watch any movie about this period, but when this one came on "Tivo" as a suggestion, I was skeptical. The Tivo guide gave it two stars and suggested that it was about nothing but a couple of guys doing dope on the road.
It is actually a pretty powerful anti-war movie, with fine acting from Winona Ryder, Keifer Sutherland, and Robert Downey, Jr., who were big stars in the '80s and I am surprised this was not more of a box office hit for their presence in the cast.
The scenes are realistic, portraying the happy-go-lucky years of hitchiking, campus protests, "sensitivity" and all that, and the music is well-chosen for the most part. I thought that there was a gratuitous homophobic scene early on, when the boys are picked up by a not-so-creepy slightly older hippie type and go ballistic, but even that scene is saved by the gay guy yelling out to them as they run away, "I didn't know you were married!"
Scott (Sutherland) is a thoughtful individualistic boy, very typical for the time, and you get the sense that his older brother, headed for Vietnam as a Marine, is not that different, but timing is everything. Bruce Dern as the WWII veteran father is surprisingly convincing (I thought he could only play creepy types) The story is fairly predictable but well done. Ryder is great playing "Beth" younger sister of the Downey character. And what is it with these early Downey roles? Art imitates life or is it vice-versa? We see him here flipping out on LSD, running around almost naked, etc., same thing we see later in his performance as "Julian" in "Less than Zero".
He's probably the finest of the actors in this film, but this is not his best role. I thought Sutherland did better and, what's more, looked better. He is the star of this movie. Too bad he is wasting his talent these days on Fox's tacky "24".
Anyway, in any period piece, I am always on the lookout for realism in scenes, props, characters, hairstyles, clothes, you name it. On first viewing, I thought this film did very well on most of those counts.
Only the final scene is unrealistic. This is supposedly set in Maryland in the early and late summer of 1969. That is too early for the kind of consensus to develop about the war that is depicted, especially in a small town where only one kid has died in Vietnam. (As I write this, the same kind of feeling about the Iraq war is only apparently developing in Vermont)
I would have liked to see these characters attending Woodstock, as that would have fit into the story well. Also, as in the NBC television series "American Dreams", some depiction of what the older brother was seeing going on in Vietnam would have helped immensely. So this is not quite up there with such brilliant and moving Vietnam films as "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July" or "Forrest Gump", but it's a fine movie and if you are anti-war and a child of the '60s, you will love it."
When We Were Young
Kevin Killian | San Francisco, CA United States | 01/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Dopy yet captivating, 1969 wears its heart on its sleeve. Winona Ryder has beautiful hippie outfits. Robert Downey Jr is fascinating to watch. His character just seems like him. Because he always plays drugged-out losers whose worlds are about to collapse, his movies always seem to be his autogiography, just like the old time-stars like Lana Turner or John Wayne. Yet in this film Kiefer's the real star, and he isn't bad. With his blond, blond hair he looks very much as though he might actually have been the son of Mariette Hartley.
The anti war stuff was a little cimplified but good. Winona makes a startling speech at her high school graduation, asking the crowd why we have to go fight a war that no one in the US actually understands. Watching it today, we realize we should be asking ourselves these questions all over again. I wonder if the movie might have been more of a success today than in 1988. Ryder made this film right between BEETLEJUICE and HEATHERS, when she was still a giant star, and yet it barely saw release.
Among the elders, Bruce Dern, Mariette Hartley and Joanna Cassidy are all excellent. Joanna Cassidy isn't as lean and mean as she is on SIX FEET UNDER, she has more flesh on her, but she looks marvelous, like Claudia Cardinale playing a hippie.
There's a scene where Sutherland's VW van, decked up in hippie colors, passes a convoy of soldier boys on a lonely highway, and Ryder leans out the window and makes the peace sign at them with a beatific smile. At first the soldiers respond violently and obscenely and then, as more and more trucks are passed, the mood of the soldiers seems to shift and a few give the peace sign back. Then more and more of them. All the while on the soundtrack "Wooden Ships" is playing (the Jefferson Airplane version). Some of the scenes were touching, others a little goofy."
Excellent soundtrack/solid cast
B. Federovitch | Hamilton NJ | 03/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"By now, we're used to the coming-of-age theme in movies about this era. But what makes ''1969'' special is its subtlety, in recognizing the differences in the way we reacted to news, gestures, comments in 1969 as compared to now. The term ''innocence'' is overused; it was simply one of fewer dimensions... no internet, fewer TV channels, when newspapers and radio took on a far greater role in forming our decisions. In the hitch-hiking and driving scenes through scenic Maryland, we remember that travel wasn't always comfortable, that we didn't take for granted getting from point A to point B. Keifer Sutherland, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder are all fantastic, but Mariette Hartley really does a stellar job as a mom that keeps a family together through incredible strife. And the soundtrack is really what'll have you hooked. There are the usual 60's staples like Blind Faith (''Can't Find My Way Home''), but also some songs younger viewers might be unfamiliar with or older ones might've forgotten (like the underrated, powerful ''When I Was Young'' by the Animals). Not a definitive look at an era, but a likeable cast of characters that will have you coming back to watch again."
Robin Carroll | Georgia | 09/02/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This movie rolls out every cliche of the coming-of-age and anti-war genres. Sensitive future writer protagonist? Check. Equally sensitive but troubled buddy? Check. Frigid [...] mom and hardass dad? Got it. Older brother shipping out, only to become cannon fodder on practically his first day in country? Yep.
(Warning: there be spoilers ahead.)
This movie feels as if it was transcribed directly from the writer/director's personal experience. That is not necessarily a good thing. The plot hits all the usual tropes - pot-smoking college students avoiding the draft, road trip in a VW van, budding romance with the best buddy's little sister. The film reaches its unlikely climax at the funeral of the previously mentioned older brother, in which Buddy's Little Sister delivers a tired anti-war sermon as if it's the first time anyone has said anything so brilliant. And to top it all off, the entire little town marches on City Hall to spring Buddy from jail (don't ask).
The only thing that saves this from a one-star rating is the cast. Keifer Sutherland is adorable as the sensitive future writer protagonist. Robert Downey Jr. plays the troubled best buddy (of course); he does what he can but the character is written inconsistently. Why would the free-spirited draft-dodger suddenly want to return to his hometown and get a job? Winona Ryder is cute as Downey's younger sister and Sutherland's love interest. Bruce Dern, Mariette Hartley and Joanna Cassidy are okay as the parents, but some of their actions seem to be without motivation.
I saw "1969" on cable at 2:45 a.m. That's exactly where it belongs."