Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) (R)
Esprit de corps and other fancy French words. Main characters with hearts of gold. Opposition—gasp! Revolution! WAR!
It's all been done before so when we see it in "Good Morning, Vietnam" it comes as no great surprise or feat of storytelling. Yet if anything Barry Levinson, the director, utilized every possible asset he had to provide a twist on a tired and true tale (and other t-alliterative words).
The movie is based on the life of Adrian Crounauer who, it should be noted, was nothing like his on-screen portrayal...yet Hollywood has given us no reason to expect anything less. The film doesn't bill itself as a true story to bring in more money, it's never quite that crass. Though it only extends to two hours, I would have gladly shaved twenty minutes of needless plot-twisting off the end—alas, I do not hold that power.
Finally finding a niche that served his rapid-fire rantings best, Robin Williams shines as Adrian Cronauer, a role that would land him his first Academy Award nomination (he would lose to Michael Douglas from "Wall Street"). As the conflict in Vietnam is rearing its ugly head right in the middle of the 60s, Adrian is sent to DJ the Army's radio station. To say that he is unconventional is putting it mildly, yet he is met with opposition from the moment he sets foot on the shaking soil.
He makes friends with a young man named Edward Garlick (Forest Whitaker) who is an awkward and bumbling type, Whitaker plays him with a lot of heart.
The first day he is in Vietnam he meets Sgt. Major Dickerson (J.T.Walsh) a man best described as disagreeable. Dickerson has something stuck somewhere where polite people don't discuss; and he, as the villainous figure in the film, makes it his job to make Adrian's life a living hell.
Censored to the extreme, Adrian usually shrugs off the truncated news reports that he receives, edited by odd twins.
Levinson doesn't stop at the baffling, he usually plows through until there's a glimpse of comedy somewhere. He's like a more approachable and funnier version of Tim Burton.
Conflicts of interest begin with Adrian falls in love with a local girl. Perhaps he's just trying to get laid, but as our hero his intentions don't stay that way for long and he begins to respect and love the locals. There are quirky characters like Dickerson, Garlick, the students who want to learn English, and the fabulously homosexual owner of a bar. They are caricatures of themselves and real humanity is not something that this film exemplifies that well; but "Good Morning, Vietnam" tries its best and who can fault it for that?
There are genuine problems with the movie like how evil Dickerson is and how great Adrian is; but they are evil and good personified and exaggerated.
The film is anti-war...wow, surprise! I don't think any film made about the Vietnam War hasn't been scathing of the entire situation; but what is surprising is how unsentimental "Good Morning, Vietnam" is about this. It doesn't have the John Williams' score or the uber emotional shots, yet everything is there and quite powerful.
It's darkly funny and an easy film to like.
Posted by Micah Jones