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A new Disc Jockey is shipped from Crete to Vietnam to bring humor to Armed Forces Radio. He turns the studio on its ear and becomes wildly popular with the troops but runs afoul of the middle management who think he isn't G.I. enough. While he is off the air, he tries to meet Vietnamese especially girls, and begins to have brushes with the real war that never appears on the radio. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Really smart and somewhat humbling film that entertains and amuses.
Made at a time when films on the Vietnam war were being produced by America at a healthy rate, Good Morning, Vietnam comes across as the sort that falls into both 'types' that were being produced at the time. Platoon got under the skin of Vietnam, telling the events from an individual's perspective through voiceovers without relying on a lot of causality, rather the everyday tasks and events that occur. Full Metal Jacket was an interesting beast in the sense most of its more intense scenes didn't actually happen in Vietnam but rather at home on the training ground. But both were in a sensible tradition and took attention away from the Reaganism inspired 'action' films that were Rambo: First Blood Part II and the like.
Good Morning, Vietnam falls into both these sorts of Vietnam war films. On one hand it is a serious film about the war and deals with serious issues such as morale and how dangerous conflict with the enemy actually is without doing what Rambo did by turning the war genre into a sub-division of the action genre. At one point in the film, DJ and lead character of the film Adrian Cronauer (Williams) finds himself in a hostile area out in the jungle and you do feel the shift in atmosphere the film briefly moves into in the sense this guy is not a soldier but he is in a dangerous position and he isn't equipped with how to get through it. There is another scene in which a street side bomb goes off and Adrian is caught up in the middle of it, further reminding us of the war zone and cleverly shifting the aura.
But the film does fall into the genre of comedy and while it does so, it never distracts us from the fact this is taking place during a war unlike First Blood: Part II which could really have been an action film set amongst any backdrop. Good Morning, Vietnam does not ignore its comedy roots either and gives us genuinely entertaining disc jockey rants from Williams who shines with his animation and ad-libbing, further reminding us of a later film of his, Aladdin, and how he really was the star of that piece.
The best parts of Good Morning, Vietnam actually raise issues to do with oppositional reading. As a character, Adrian is one of those charismatic individuals who is perhaps more focused on entertaining his audience first but when repercussions to do with that want to entertain arise, it is an oppositional reading to something that seems innocent enough. There are a couple of scenes and incidences that deal with this theme of oppositional reading. One that springs to mind takes place in a bar in which Adrian has brought a Vietnamese friend whom he teaches in an English class. The trouble is, it's a G.I. bar and certain soldiers have an issue with the Vietnamese person being there. It is Adrian's carefree and relaxed attitude to letting the individual come with him to the bar that has upset certain others around him, resulting in an oppositional opinion on whether the Vietnamese person should be allowed there. One says he can, others say he can't and conflict erupts.
This battle is constantly going on within the boundaries of the radio studio and exists between Adrian and the censors who blank out all the bad news such as deaths and bombings, failing to deliver the real news, and instead keep morale from going below a certain point. Adrian's style of giving the people what they should hear in a charismatic style also rubs off spawning a sub-story revolving around a small school that teaches Vietnamese people the English language. Before hand, they were learning very basic words and phrases but after Adrian takes over, New York City slang or 'jargon' is the name of the game and while you wouldn't find English as a foreign language classes doing this sort of thing, Adrian brings his charismatic style to a class, turning it from formal to informal.
The theme here is that he's giving them exactly what he feels they need to know, not what the curriculum demand they know. It is the same with the radio station and the news censorship; giving people what they have a right to know vs. what a higher power say they should know. The principal foil for Adrian is Lt. Steven Hauk (Kirby) who is against Adrian's style of parody and constant joking but when he is put on air, the best he can do is adopt the voice and role of a Frenchman as he mocks and plods his way through airtime. It is a battle that the oppositional readers loose since morale falls drastically after Adrian is taken off and he is forced to be reinstated because of this.
Good Morning, Vietnam carries a pumping soundtrack which is what you'd expect for a film about a DJ and an emphasis on radio and its constant referencing to popular culture, gliding from The Wizard of Oz to Eleanor Roosevelt makes Williams' scenes consistently fun to watch. But other than this, it gives some political stances without ever feeling forced with the 'Wonderful World' montage over wartime action and juxtaposes James Brown's music over other scenes of wartime action. The film is a success in comedy and drama, a rarity of sorts given Dr. Strangelove supposedly set the standards.
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