Lanford Wilson's The Fifth of July makes the transition from stage to screen beautifully, retaining all of the loveliness of the original staging. Having a document of performances of these actors creating beautiful roles is invaluable. While Richard Thomas was a replacement for Christopher Reeve, who was in turn a replacement for William Hurt, Thomas shatters the then iconic John-Boy Walton image. His is a brave performance for an actor who initially made his name in such a wholesome television project. Playing opposite him is Jeff Daniels in his first substantive role, and he is as reliable and moving as in any of his later work like "The Hours". Swoozie Kurtz won the Tony for this performance, though the ensemble is the star of the show. Wilson turns Missouri into a Chekovian landscape, rife with the rhythms of the 70's as they bleed into the 80's. This is an important play - dealing with an honest gay couple in a time when that wasn't quite the norm it is today, one of whom is a disabled Vietnam veteran. There is just so much "stuff" here, from Sally's loss of her life's love Matt, to the idea of belonging to a place and the traditions of family and the betrayal of believed friends.
Of special note is a young Cynthia Nixon - you can see the adult woman we still know in the adolescent girl and she handles some of Wilson's most poetic lapses beautifully - a short of Williams character in training.
It may prove difficult to watch as it is somewhat stage-bound, but, really, get over it and take it for was it is - a document of a beautifully staged, produced, designed and acted play.