Photo courtesy of rotten tomatoes.com
By Luke Gair
To be frank, I can’t say I have ever watched any of Robin Williams’s films, but since his death in 2014, I have made a more valiant attempt to see more of his work. Aside from his early-nineties adventure flick, Jumanji, my knowledge of his acting repertoire is nearly barren. Recently, the Cinema Guild played his critically acclaimed film Good Morning, Vietnam– a rich blend of both humor and drama. The war in Vietnam was a troubling time for the United States, and for Williams to have the ability to find a sliver of light in this dark conflict is absolutely brilliant.
In the year of 1965, disc jockey Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) moves from Crete to Saigon, a city in Vietnam that served as a pivotal location during U.S. soldiers’ deployment during the war. Cronauer’s quirky character marches to the beat of his own drum, hardly careful of how others perceive him. Whether teasing Lieutenant Steven Hawk (Bruno Kirby), or giving a memorable monologue on his morning radio show, there is a guaranteed laugh throughout. From our first glimpse of Williams’s wacky persona, it is evident he uses comedy to combat the grim aspects of war. After getting to know Saigon natives Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana) and Tua (Tung Thanh Tran), the film lessens its focus on comedy and narrows in on the enthralling drama aspect.
Cronauer eventually begins to court Trinh. Although this is where it begins to look up for Cronauer, this is where the subplot surfaces. With terrorism on the rise in Saigon, the United States military begins to threaten all associated criminals with death. After a striking realization from Cronauer, he begins to question his loyalty to his friends. From Cronauer’s investigations came a haunting line from Tua, where he states, “My mother dead. And my older brother, who be 29 years old, he dead. Shot by Americans. My neighbor, dead. His wife, dead. Why? Because we’re not human to them. We’re only little Vietnamese.”
This is only one instance in which Levinson succeeds in presenting social commentary on the Vietnam War with gusto, driven by an excellent series of shots and unforgettable dialogue. Once Cronauer leaves Saigon, it is evident he leaves his legacy behind, with his comrade Edward Garlick (Forest Whitaker) taking over his place in the radio station. Although Williams’ spectacular film has been around for several decades, it is still a necessity for all fans of the silver screen.