Movie #104: Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

As I’m sure you’re well aware, Robin Williams died Monday at the age of 63.  He is certainly a one-of-a-kind actor and a comedic genius.  Dead Poet’s Society is simply brilliant in large part because of Williams’ performance, and it’s one of my favorite movies.  Though he’s primarily a comedic actor, he balances that out with genuine dramatic performances.  I’ve been more surprised at how many stories are now coming out about how caring of a person he was.  It makes me appreciate him even more knowing how he lifted other people’s spirits and didn’t do it for the attention or accolades.  He will be missed.

Director: Barry Levinson

Starring: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Tung Thanh Tran, J.T. Walsh, Robert Wuhl, and Bruno Kirby

Academy Award Nominations (1988):

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Robin Williams

goodmorningvietnamposter

“What’s the demilitarized zone? It sounds like something from the Wizard of Oz “Oh no don’t go in there!” “Ohhh wee ohh. Ho Chi Minh.” “Oh look you’ve landed in Saigon. You’re amongst the little people now.” “We represent the ARVN army, the ARVN army. Oh no! Follow the Ho Chi Minh trail! Follow the Ho Chi Minh trail!”

“An unorthodox and irreverent DJ begins to shake up things when he is assigned to the US Armed Services Radio station in Vietnam.” from IMDB.com

Good Morning, Vietnam, a film loosely based on DJ Adrian Cronauer, was originally pitched by Cronauer in 1979 as a TV series.  M*A*S*H*, another war-based comedy, was one of the highest rated shows at the time, but Cronauer’s show was rejected.  Eight years and probably a few rewrites later, we got Good Morning, Vietnam.  Though it’s considered a war movie, I think of it more as a comedy set during a war.

Though primarily a comedy, this film was also one of the first to really humanize the Vietnamese on the big screen.  As Adrian pursues a relationship with a local Vietnamese girl, and befriends her brother in the process, there’s a tension and fine line of figuring out who is friend and who is foe.  The Vietnam War is unique for America because it was the first war where the enemy could have been anyone.  In prior conventional wars, there would be one army on one side and the other on the other side and they’d know who the enemy is.  With Vietnam, a kid could set a basket down that has a bomb in it.  Including Adrian’s interactions with the locals adds depth and makes this movie about more than just Williams’ comedic performance.

It goes without saying that Robin Williams’ comedy really makes this film enjoyable.  Most of his radio broadcasts in the film were improvised and frankly, Williams is the only person who could have pulled that off.  This film really showcases his comedic talents.  He balances the comedy out with the more dramatic scenes, though, and it makes his performance so much better.  He can switch the emotions seamlessly and does both sides of the character in a believable, genuine way.

good-morning-vietnam-1987-12-gThere is a great supporting cast in Good Morning, Vietnam.  A young Forest Whitaker holds his own as his character Edward Garlick assists Adrian.  Robert Wuhl, who I usually find insufferable, was actually pretty good in this movie.  He didn’t get on my nerves.

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J.T. Walsh and Bruno Kirby make great adversaries to Adrian.   Kirby’s Lt. Steven Hauk, thinks he’s funny but has horrible comedic timing.  It’s so bad that it’s great when he’s trying to be funny.  Walsh just has that look and feel of the straight-laced, by-the-book hard head.  Dickerson gets his comeuppance in the end though.

Williams lost the Academy Award for Best Actor to Michael Douglas.  That’s a shame.

Good morning ,Vietnam1988Barry LevinsonRobin Williams

I enjoyed Good Morning, Vietnam.  It has a lot of comedy and a good balance of drama and tension.  Robin Williams makes this film great with his brilliant improvisational abilities and helped bring out a lighter side to the Vietnam War.  He is complemented by a great supporting cast, but ultimately Williams is the star.  I’d definitely recommend seeing this one, it’s simply one of Williams’ best.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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