Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

I quite like Robin Williams, but his career is a real mixed bag that, especially of late, veers towards the not so great films that probably help him pay the bills. His comedic career has also all too often embraced the safe brand of generic family friendly comedy that rakes in the cash. 'Good Morning, Vietnam' is one of those films that's cited as demonstrating Robin Williams at his comic best. I agree.

Based very loosely on reality, 'Good Morning, Vietnam' tells the story of Airman Adrian Cronauer (Williams), a DJ who is assigned to a military radio station in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The fast talking comedian Cronauer is irreverent and abrasive, and his style immediately pisses off his superiors despite garnering massive popularity amongst his target audience, the troops. Cronauer is supported by his broadcast colleagues, including Pfc Edward Garlick (future Idi Amin Forest Whitaker). He spends his free time getting to know his surroundings and pursues the affections of a local woman, and in doing so ends up befriending her brother Tuan and teaching an English class for some of the locals. As time passes, Cronauer gets into trouble with his superiors as he rails against censorship and begins to understand that the war isn't as clear cut as the military would like people to believe.

The film is very funny, both the scripted parts and Robin William's adlibbed, manic broadcasts. The humour is also juxtaposed with serious drama, as Cronauer goes through an eye opening experience as he gains an insight into the situation in Vietnam. He becomes aware of the culture of Vietnam, and the nature of the conflict that engulfs it, and discovers that the locals aren't as happy with the U.S. Military presence as had initially believed. There's an air of realism to much of the backdrop of the film; it was especially interesting to see the 'romance' subplot handled believably and without adherence to movie clich├ęs. The story concludes in an appropriately ambivalent and satisfactory manner.

Williams is absolutely fantastic as the out of control Cronauer, and gets both the comedic and the serious, dramatic aspects of the character just right. The supporting cast is also strong, especially Whitaker as his loyal sidekick and Tung Thanh Tran as Tuan. Bruno Kirby and J. T. Walsh make for memorable villains as Cronauer's immediate superiors. Director Barry Levinson marries the different tones of the film together well, including moments where characters within the same scene exhibit contrasting tones (it's much like MASH in that respect, which I wrote about here). The final stellar ingredient in the mix is the fantastic selection of music that is used throughout the film, which is meant to be representative of the music Cronauer plays during his show.

'Good Morning, Vietnam' lives up to expectations - it's funny as a comedy, and engaging and affecting as a drama. For me, it's the most memorable Robin William's performance I've seen, and certainly the funniest. Well worth watching.

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