Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flick of The Day: Good Morning, Vietnam

Today's flick is a landmark comedy set in the Vietnam war, Good Morning Vietnam and the first film to prove that there was more to Robin Williams then a great stand-up act and Mork & Mindy. In an wonderful performance, he brings his improvisational humour to bear and elevates the film to a different level.
Robin Williams is Adrian Cronauer, an Airman sent to Saigon in 1965 from Crete to act as a DJ on the US Armed Forces Radio Station in Vietnam. His crazed stream of consciousness humour is in stark contrast to the staid by the book announcers the station normally employs and Cronauer is soon in trouble with his immediate superiors, in particular the uptight Sgt Major Dickerson played by J.T Walsh much to the alarm of the underling assigned to look after him, Private Garlick, an impossibly young Forest Whitaker. Cronauer soon meets and fall in love with a Vietnamese girl and befriends her brother along the way. It soon becomes apparent that Dickerson is willing to go to any length to get rid of Cronauer, despite the support he enjoys amongst the top brass and the reality of the War in Vietnam soon hits home.
The real reason to see this film is of course Robin Williams. He inhabits the character of a Radio DJ completely. Many of the on air scenes are improvised, with Williams proving his abilities as a funny man without peer. 

Dickerson: This is not military issue, airman. What sort of uniform is that? 
Adrian Cronauer: Cretan camouflage sir. If you want to blend in with a bunch of drunken Greeks there's nothing better. 
Dickerson: That is humor. I recognize that. I also recognize your brand of soldier.

Watching the film today, it is is easy to see why Williams won such acclaim for his performance including an Oscar nomination.  However humour alone would not be enough to carry the film, the film contains real heart and recognises the tragedy that was the Vietnam conflict. For all that the pithy and satiric humour carry the film, it would be a lesser film if it didn't take a serious turn in the final act.
Barry Levinson handles this transition well, and Williams is as adept at scathing remarks about the futility of the war as he is one-liners. This is a great film and a worthy addition to the genre.

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