What's it all about? We know EXACTLY what it's about when the opening scene features a TV set featuring a news broadcast concerning the Vietnam War and featuring Lyndon Johnson looking silly. Three friends Paul Shaw (Jonathan Warden), Lloyd Clay (Gerrit Graham -- "Beef" in DePalma's later PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE) and Jon Rubin (Robert DeNiro) have all been summoned to the army induction office and are trying to find ways not to go to Vietnam. Lloyd went last week and now Paul is facing his imminent appointment with the induction officers. Strategies to make themselves 4F include pretending to be homosexual (DePalma's long-running treatment of gays as some "alien life form" began this early), pretending to be a Nazi (which I suppose DePalma equates with being homosexual somehow) or running around the city staying awake for days so they will "look their best" (echoing Arlo Guthrie's ALICE'S RESTAURANT). Of course, rather than fake mental irregularities, the three men ARE actually kinda strange and should probably not be inducted ANYWAY! Paul is obsessed with sex and, while waiting for his induction appointment, embarks on a series of computer dates where he can exercise his sexual hunger with as many random women as possible. Lloyd is fanatically obsessed with the JFK assassination and conspiracy theory; he has studied every detail and blows up frame after frame of the Zapruder film (linking him directly with Antonioni's BLOW UP -- which is even referenced in the script). In fact, Lloyd is so obsessed that while he's in bed with a naked woman he would rather dress her up in a shirt onto which he plots JFK's bullet wounds than have sex with her! Lloyd is stymied by the fact that blowing up photographs only makes it impossible to see anything; the photo becomes too blurry and grainy. DePalma seems to run with this aspect by featuring many scenes in which our main characters are performing in the foreground while other activity (apparently just as important) is going on farther back in the frame. Lastly, we have DeNiro's character Jon who is a voyeur that likes to film women (thankfully WITH their full knowledge and cooperation) through a window acting out their "private moments". DeNiro is so obsessed that, when he finally does get drafted and sent to Vietnam, he still does the same thing. A TV reporter in the jungle with DeNiro's character films him while he sneaks up with a rifle on a supposedly Viet Cong women and has her act out the same "private moments" for the TV camera.
This is an interesting thing about DePalma's films. He (co-writing the screenplay with Charles Hirsch) has his characters mostly end up where they don't want to be. The sex-obsessed Paul is the only one who probably finishes where he belongs: as the star of a porno movie called "The Delivery Boy and the Bored Housewife". We find this out in a backhanded (and quite deft) manner. In a truly funny scene, a rather sleazy man strikes up a conversation with DeNiro's character on the street and eventually leads up to selling him a dirty movie for $5. This movie, of course, stars his friend Paul. DeNiro's character Jon, as mentioned, fails to stop himself from going to Vietnam but still manages to act out his "peeping tom" obsessions (Michael Powell, anyone) in the jungle for a TV camera. And Lloyd's character meets an extremely cracked character who claims to have been in Dealey Plaza as a witness to the Kennedy assassination. This paranoid guy insists that he (and Lloyd) and are being watched by the government. When he suggests a later meeting, Lloyd shows up and is himself assassinated by an unseen shooter (!) on his way to the Statue of Liberty.
DePalma's direction is predictably slapdash but that can be forgiven due to the "seat-of-your-pants" independent production it was. DePalma also utilizes such old-fashioned movie tricks as title cards (which 9 times out of 10 don't work but here I don't mind them) and fast motion a la silent movies (which is usually irritating in 60's films and kinda is here too). I don't know how much of the film was scripted and how much was improvised by the cast but the actors really do bolster the film tremendously. If they weren't so watchable, we wouldn't be watching; I can assure you. GREETINGS was even more shockingly followed by a sequel called HI MOM (which I've never seen). However, it apparently didn't do as well as GREETINGS so DePalma fell into his more commercial (and less satisfying) Hitchcock pastiche which he has sadly never left; abandoning the rather fresh approach to filmmaking on display in GREETINGS. The DVD of the film can be got quite cheaply online so, if you're so inclined and want to see where Brian DePalma's career COULD'VE gone, you might want to pick up a copy.