Anthony's Film Review
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Funny comedy and serious drama made especially interesting with Robin Williams's memorable performance...
Good Morning, Vietnam is based on a true story, but the cinematic portrayal of this story, from what I've heard, is so different from the true story that I'm not really going to say much about it. Lots of Hollywood movies deviate from the true story that I could care less about it, even if I would like it if such movies are as true as possible. Rather, I want to talk about the star of the movie, Robin Williams, and his style of rapid ad-libbed humor. This is a movie that showcases the talent of this comic actor, and it's really the only reason to watch the movie.
Robin Williams plays Adrian Cronauer, a military radio DJ who is sent to Vietnam in 1965 to boost the morale of American troops through humor. The first few minutes of the movie serve as a quick introduction where Adrian gets off a plane, meets Edward Garlick (played by Forest Whitaker), and gets settled in his new gig. Fortunately, it doesn't last long. The entertainment begins when Adrian goes on the air for the first time, with a greeting that is no doubt unforgettable to us in the audience and to the American troops in this movie listening to the radio: "Gooooooooooooooooooooooood morning, Vietnam!"
This is followed, without delay, by a series of fast-paced unscripted jokes that can easily make people laugh. Whether it's the cleverness of the jokes or just the relentless speed of this DJ's voice, one cannot help but laugh with Adrian. Of course, a few people are not amused: higher-ranking military officials who see Adrian's style of comedy as breaking the rules. Who knows if the comedy could loosen the troops so much that they become less disciplined in the battlefield? Even so, Adrian doesn't back down, and neither does the support of Adrian from the troops.
Outside the radio station, Adrian hangs out at a bar owned by a Vietnamese man named Jimmy Wah and also seeks the affection of a Vietnamese woman named Trinh whom he sees passing by. To get closer to Trinh, he goes as far as to become a substitute teacher for her English class. That's where Adrian meets Trinh's brother, a young boy named Tuan. So on the air, Adrian is pretty funny to some but offensive to others. Off the air, he's sort of the same way, but at least he's liked by some.
Halfway through, this comedy film begins to also present itself as a drama film. Adrian comes up close and personal with the Vietnam War, with a near-death experience involving war violence. Suddenly, another side of Adrian comes out, when he argues with his military superiors about why news items about the harsh realities of the war are being censored for military radio. As time goes on, his human side comes out, when Adrian has concern for Tuan. And Adrian's gift for making people smile is clear when, in one scene, he visits the troops and tells more jokes, as well as a later scene where he plays softball with some Vietnamese people.
Together, the comedy and the drama made me ask some interesting questions. If a certain type of humor really gives American soldiers an emotional and psychological boost, in a way that doesn't jeopardize troop movements, is there any reason to be afraid of it? Could anything really go wrong because of "too much" humor? Most importantly, is it better to achieve peace through love and understanding rather than the violent elimination of people perceived to be the enemy? There is a great part of the movie that made me think of this: scenes of the Viet Cong from northern Vietnam capturing and rounding up innocent people in southern Vietnam, with the sounds of this turmoil replaced by the soothing classic Louis Armstrong song "What a Wonderful World."
In any event, the movie Good Morning, Vietnam is really all about Robin Williams. Here is a film that features one of his best performances, as both a comic actor and a dramatic actor. It's also a fine piece of work from director Barry Levinson, who presents the two elements of comedy and drama equally well without having the two clash with each other. The result is a notable film in the subgenre of military comedies, one that successfully brings laughter even to a subject matter as depressing as war.
For more information about Good Morning, Vietnam, visit the Internet Movie Database.