Hello! Slava & I saw WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, 2016) this past weekend in Great Borington. When we go to the movies there, I always have to take deep breaths and remind myself where I am and that my audience / presentation expectations must remain LOW. Usually we are in a room full of old people who are repeating the dialog to each other. Everyone was pretty well-behaved this time, though. Nice going, GB!
If there is a genre of film I am reluctant to watch, it is War Films. WTF, however, is based on a memoir of a woman journalist in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, so we kind of had to see it. Did I mention it’s something of a feminist comedy and Tina Fey stars? And Watson is in there and my pal Billy Bob. Plus Alfred Molina – ps I forgot until just now he was also in PRICK UP YOUR EARS (Stephen Frears, 1987).
Our journalist heroine Kim is finding her life in the USA depressing for the usual boring reasons that are, thankfully, not fully explored by the film, so she takes an opportunity to work in Afghanistan. She does this sort of on a whim, asks her boyfriend to water her plants. She intends to return in 3 months, but that, of course, turns into years, and the plants wind up dead. She doesn’t seem like the type to pick up and head into a warzone, but the scene pretty quickly charms her, despite the constant violence and the status of women.
The movie has a kind of meandering story, which is not surprising since it’s based on real life. I know my life has not always had the tight trajectory of plot demanded by some Hollywood pictures. She goes to Afghanistan, she meets people, she follows stories. There is, of course, conflict the entire time, but there isn’t one main plot thread. Also, it’s not constant comedy, but people and situations are funny in a real-life sort of way.
Afghanistan, is beautiful.
The embedded reporters live together in a big frat-style party house. Kim is one of only a few Western women around, so she has plenty of opportunity to attract babes, drink a lot, and generally have a good time. Her pal is a foxy blonde Australian reporter who takes her out and shows her the ropes. Warzone reporters turn out to be just as crazy as you think they are, constantly partying because tomorrow we die. They have bodyguards assigned to them. Headscarves are a problem, but the Marines have their charms.
This film is truly told from a real woman’s perspective. It doesn’t dwell on romance or clothing or whatever it is most male directors & producers seem to think women’s lives are about. Our Girl in Afghanistan is allowed to have a real experience, which is very refreshing. She is very much an individual – funny, goofy, shaped like an actual person. Sure, she does have moments where her hair or her outfit get her into trouble, but these are realistic moments that don’t drive the plot- they are only moments in life. Being a woman is hard!
A couple of casting notes – while Alfred Molina is pretty funny as an Afghan politician, he is an Italian-Brit, and he’s a little over the top in this role. Christopher Abbot (Italian-American) is rather convincing and utterly charming (those eyes!!) as the Afghan fixer, but why cast these guys? Certainly, anyone making a movie that is not the straight up bullshit nonsense Hollywood usually churns out is expected to do the right thing all around. And they almost never do. Is it because the movie would be less if they did, and we’d never see it to wonder at it, or is it because they are lazy? I tend to believe the latter – don’t we all want to do the easier thing sometimes? PS SPOILER did they take any heat for casting someone who had legs to play the role of the person who loses his legs? Probably not, but whatever. This all said, I wouldn’t have traded Abbot in for anyone.
It’s not perfect. There is a comically bad musical choice (see it and wince!), but overall I liked it a lot. It’s not The Story Of The US War in Afghanistan, but I wouldn’t have seen that movie, remember? (See paragraph 2.) I laughed a lot, and plotted in my head how we could possibly visit someday – but Slava suggested we find a place close but not so crazy. Wise man.
PS the US still has troops in Afghanistan as of this writing.