Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby
In "Good Morning, Vietnam", Robin Williams has a role practically tailor made for his irreverent, yet uniquely sensitive personality that is able to shift emotions and shift focus in a matter of seconds.
Williams portrays Adrian Cronauer, a radio DJ who begins to shake things up when he's assigned to the US Armed Services Station during the Vietnam War.
At first thought, the idea of mixing such an irreverent, humorous film with the Vietnam War seems an odd one, and possibly offensive. By casting Williams, however, director Barry Levinson is able to transcend the potential offensiveness of the material.
In "Good Morning, Vietnam", Cronauer becomes a hit with his energetic, improvisational approach to the radio waves in Saigon. He's unlike any other Armed Services DJ, and despite the jealousy of his immediate supervisor (Bruno Kirby) he becomes a hit.
Of course, the inevitable conflict occurs when Cronauer experiences the war first-hand and he begins using his microphone as a way to tell America the truth about the war.
As Cronauer, Williams literally comes alive. He's allowed to be funny, improvisational, sensitive and dramatic all within the same role. Of course, this is Williams, so he's best at the funny and improvisational, however, he ably handles the sensitive aspect of Cronauer as well. Williams received a Best Actor nomination for his performance here, and captured the Golden Globe for the performance.
The supporting performances are more skeletal. This is, quite clearly, the Robin Williams show. Tung Tranh Tuan and Cu Ba Nguyen, in particular, turn in strong performances as Thanh and Jimmy Wah.
The technical aspects of the film were generally positive, and the film was actually darker than your typical Levinson film. The music is an absolute highlight, including the magnificent use of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."
I would regret it if I didn't mention that the film features a supporting performance by Juney Smith, who wrote/directed this year's absolutely horrid "Fake Preacher," proving that a supporting performance in "Good Morning, Vietnam" may be the highlight of his career.
There are certain films that have certain moments that stick with you over time. Nearly twenty years after its release, one can still visualize Robin Williams leaning over the microphone and in how own energetic way screaming out "Gooooooooooood Morning, Vietnammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!"
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic