Set in a small Wisconsin farming community during the height of the Vietnam War, the gentle drama Homer does a fine job of illustrating the Generation Gap, pitting a longhaired son against his straight-laced father while emphasizing that the two men share more love for each other than they do animosity. The son wants no part of his parents’ values, because he sees the generation that came up during the Depression as unquestioning warmongers, while the father struggles to understand that his son perceives apathy and the escapism of listening to and performing rock music as means of conscientious objection. That’s why the movie opens with the son making a failed attempt at running away from home—with neither participant in this conflict willing to budge, something has to give, even if that means the dissolution of the family unit.
If only the filmmakers behind Homercould have realized other aspects of the story as well as the main plot. After the failed getaway, Homer (Don Scardino) returns to his frustrating routine. He fights with his father (Alex Niccol), even as his mother (Lanika Peterson) tries to keep the peace. Homer also explores a touch-and-go romantic relationship with pretty fellow high-school student Laurie Grainger (Tisa Farrow). He likes her and lusts after her, but he doesn’t stand in the way when a slightly older mutual friend, Eddie (Tim Henry), makes a pass at Laurie before Eddie ships out to Vietnam. Through it all, Homer develops his considerable musical talent, even scoring a paying gig with his band, though his ideas of how to transform art into a career are abstract at best. The point is that Homer is confused about everything except music and sex, and that he’s on the verge of becoming part of the nation’s burgeoning antiwar movement.
Some episodes resonate loudly, like the touching scene in which Eddie bequeaths his beloved motorcycle to Homer and the tender vignette of Homer sleeping with Laurie for the first time. Other episodes meander, such as overlong musical montages. Those montages, coupled with a general sluggish pace, sap much of the vitality from Homer, revealing that the film doesn’t contain sufficient story material to support its own weight. There aren’t enough characters, and the people onscreen behave the same way in every scene, so the film only makes a few small points over the course of 91 minutes. The rest is filler. However, there’s much to like about this little picture: Scardino’s earnest leading performance meshes well with Farrow’s quiet sexiness and Niccol’s heartland toughness, and Homer boasts a potent soundtrack featuring tunes by the Byrds, Led Zeppelin, and others.