Based on a memoir, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the “true story” of Kim Baker, an American journalist sent to Afghanistan to be a war reporter despite having absolutely no experience (being unmarried and childless was short straw enough). In Afghanistan she is immediately confronted with the concept of “Kabul cute” – women who were a 4 back home in New York are suddenly 10s. Tina Fey plays the 4. Margot Robbie plays a 15.
Afghanistan is windy and gritty, basically a forgotten war now that Iraq is a better news story, but the more she sticks with it, the more Kim elicits candid remarks from her subjects. Billy Bob Thornton plays the guy who finds her nothing but a nuisance, admonishing her not to sleep with his marines.
It’s actually not a bad movie, considering it bombed at the box office. What went wrong? Possibly people didn’t like to see one of their favourite comediennes amid such a serious backdrop – it’s hard to laugh at limbs being blown off. And the very same war fatigue mentioned in the movie may contribute not wanting to hear about it in theatres, either. Bill Murray’s Rock the Kasbah suffered the same fate. And maybe Tina Fey’s just not ready to cross over genres, or to headline her own movie alone. Martin Freeman was great support in the movie but didn’t get any screen time in the trailers. And the trailer, for that matter, played up the movie’s comic aspect even though the movie’s a dramedy at best, lobbing one-liners like hand grenades into a pretty grim war zone.
But Fey actually does well, if you give her the chance. I thought she and Freeman were great together. The movie just doesn’t have a lot to say. It’s not a commentary on the war so much as one woman’s less glamorous version of Eat, Pray, Love. The real Kim Barker never broke any major news stories so there’s not a lot of insight and not much authenticity. I think the script had some great pieces but suffered from abrupt lurches in tone. Overall though, I’m glad I gave it my time, even if I didn’t Lima Mike Foxtrot Alpha Oscar.