RogerBW's Blog

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) 19 January 2022

1987 war, dir. Barry Levinson, Robin Williams: IMDb / allmovie. A laugh a minute in good old Vietnam.

Well, this is much more a Robin Williams concert video, with occasional bits of plot, than it is a film that's trying seriously to say anything. I know that many people regard Williams as a comic genius, but he's never really worked for me; I can see what he's doing, but it doesn't engage my enjoyment, and here at least there's a lot of punching down. Ooh, says his character with a funny voice, I'm (foreign, gay, stupid), I just don't get it do I? Look at the silly man, ha ha.

Perhaps because I'm not readily thrown into sympathy with Cronauer I can't help noticing how heavy-handed the attempts are to get me there: all the grunts on the ground love him (cut away to what might as well be stock footage, though I think it was filmed afresh for this, with Williams or contemporaneous music on the soundtrack), and all the people who don't love him are Bad People with No Sense Of Humour who should Just Let Him Do His Thing.

And to be fair the one constant note in all the contemporary reviews was that those on-air segments are the good bit, whether the reviewer liked the film overall or not. The rest, well, it's a simplistic plot mostly about how Our Hero is horny, tries to get involved with a local girl (she tells him to stop bothering her and go away, but he doesn't, ha ha what a card), and eventually comes to the entirely unexpected realisation that maybe some of the locals don't actually love Americans. Gosh. (Why doesn't Tuan just say "go down this street and you'll meet lots of pretty girls"? Weirdly there's no mention at all of prostitution in the film.)

On the other hand, this is the only one of this batch of Vietnam films that tries to show the Vietnamese people as having a working society, as being something other than prostitutes, thieves, victims, or The Faceless Enemy. It's not much, but it's something.

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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