Robin Williams was an immense talent, incredibly funny, lighting fast; no one could compete with him. He was a brilliant actor, from Mork and Mindy to Jumanji and Good Will Hunting. Raw emotion or just intensely funny comedy. Sadly, just over a year ago he passed away. This was a huge shock to the entertainment community and anyone who had ever enjoyed one of his shows, films or stand-ups. The tragic circumstances of his death have helped bring some much needed awareness and acceptance to mental illness.
But rather than dwell on the sadness, I am going to focus on the genius of his work. In particular the acclaimed comedy and drama ”Good Morning Vietnam”, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Williams as Airman 2nd Class Adrian Cronauer who arrives on placement in Saigon as a Armed Forces Radio DJ. This role was the first of 4 Oscar nominations; the others being Best Actor for Dead Poets Society (1989) and The Fisher King (1991) an his Supporting Actor win for Good Will Hunting in (1998). Click on the film titles for a great Williams scene for each movie!
So without further ado here is the trailer:
Cronauer arrives in Saigon for his new posting, once there Private 1st Class Edward Garlick (Forrest Whitaker) helps him settle in. Cronauer’s exciting, unpredictable and raucous presenting style, featuring the best of modern music rather than the same old sound, quickly wins over many listeners but also infuriates his two immediate superiors. As the weeks go by, fed up with bureaucracy and censorship he questions the importance of his role as a DJ. Yet, in the middle of all this craziness Cronauer develops a friendship with a young Vietnamese boy, Tuan, whilst also trying to win the affection and attention of his older sister, Trinh.
Williams is astonishing, as DJ Cronauer. He exudes ludicrous charm and confidence, or ”a deplorable excess of personality” as Dr Hammond would say. His broadcast scenes are full of impressions, characatures, wit and barely caged-insanity. You feel witness to your own personal Robin Williams stand-up performance, the speed at which he changes direction leaves you in speechless. And what’s more…it is hilarious. Here is Robin Williams at his best, his sheer joy at being an entertainer, it is no wonder he was so at home as Adrian Cronauer.
Williams is not just a joke machine. There are touching moments; heartfelt bonding between Cronauer and Tuan who in theory should be enemies, Cronauers sheer force of persona forming instant camaraderie with his peers. Cronauer’s clashes with his superiors are some of the best moments of the film; his resentment, their jealously.. and all dealt with through a biting sense of humour.
My favourite Williams’ scene in the movie is towards the end. SPOILER WARNING. And involves Cronauer and Tuan. Sorry for the poor quality, couldnt find a better link.
This scene is all about betrayal, trust and the causalities of war; seeing the war from both perspectives!
Beyond Robin there is a great surrounding cast, Forest Whitaker has a great and nuanced turn as Edward Garlick. While Tung Thanh Tran (Tuan) and Chintara Sukapatana (Trinh, Tuan’s sister) also gave great performances, especially the former as Williams friend and ally.
The film is very well directed and while often framed to focus on Williams and his eccentricities; just as important, however, are the establishing and surrounding scenes of ”Vietnam”. Although, filmed in Thailand, the scenery is remarkably beautiful, showcasing normal daily life in the villages or ”Saigon”. These visuals are often accompanied by 60’s pop-sounds of Cronauer’s show. The Beach Boys. James Brown. The Marvellettes.
The prime example of this is set to Louis Armstrong’s ”A Wonderful World”. The wonderful tones of Satchel Mouth play over contrasting scenes of military drills and local life, which suddenly change to panic and terror. Napalm bombing paddy fields. Riots in the street. Bombs in Saigon. A bloody sandal in front of a burning building. It is a haunting, beautiful and upsetting disparity. Watch the clip or watch the film…it’s up to you.
Although great, alas this movie is not perfect. As with many films of the era there is a little bit of dated, lazy racism through impressions or stereotyping. Fortunately, this is kept to a minimum and doesn’t overly detract from the film. Especially given the way modern ”comedies” try to get away with this and much worse. My other criticism would be the constant and unrelenting animosity from Cronauer’s two superiors, with no reason to really warrant it. One is partially understandable as he wants to be the funny man and so resents Cronauer’s talent and adoration, especially after he hilariously fails to take over the show and bombs (see below). The Staff Sergeant, however, is just mean because….he’s a military man? But why? Why hate nice people so much? Why be such a dick? Again he got some form of come-upance as he is transferred out of Vietnam to a peace zone for being mean. But it is really hard to care about these wrongs being righted when there wasn’t a bloody reason for them in the first place!
Overall though, this is a wonderful film. Funny, dramatic, heart-warming and thought provoking. Mainly in part due to the never-ending talent of Robin Williams. I cant recommend this film enough.
Other Robin Williams films you really should see are: Dead Poets Society, Birdcage, Jumanji, Aladdin, The Fisher King, One Hour Photo, Good Will Hunting. And many many more!
Hope you enjoyed it. Like Comment and follow if you agree with my take on one of William’s greatest film.
VERDICT: ”You are in more dire need of a blowjob than any white man in history.”