As a Thai citizen, I’ve heard a lot about Good Morning, Vietnam…basically for two reasons: It was shot in my country and Chintara Sukapatana, the hottest actress around that time, appeared in this film. I still couldn’t find a chance to watch this film until today, in which the world still shock about the death of leading actor in this film, Robin Williams.
An unusual style of film
Usually, I love any movies that depict Vietnam War in one way or another. Not only because they are going to teach me the history of brutality around the time, they also have really great choice of soundtrack. But here, we have something slightly different. Our main character doesn’t have to grab a gun, runs in the fields, or being tortured by VC, but Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams) is just a guy who arrives in Vietnam to host an army radio show. At first, his comedic style and his choice of music (usually, Soul, Funk, and Rock records) make him famous immediately. Unfortunately, they upset two commanders superiors: Second Lieutenant Steven Hauk and Sergeant Major Phillip Dickerson. This part of film still heavily relies on comedic tone, but things slowly get more and more intense as the time goes by. We’ll get into that in a minute, don’t worry.
As I said above, this is an unusual method for a movie about Vietnam War because, usually, it shows us bloody death scenes and how dark/scary when someone has to shoot enemies. But here, it still has the anti-war message that mixed with other message like “Don’t be serious about our life”. Just look at Hauk and Dick, these guys are too serious and too strict about radio broadcast. And when Dick does thing that he thinks it’s the “right” way, it failed miserably. Sometimes, you don’t need to play by the book, just do whatever to please everybody and make sure that it won’t hurt any one.
“Telling the truth”
As the time goes by, Adrian becomes more upset about the fact that every news has to be censored before he can reads it on the air. Things get worse and worse when a news about explosion at a bar is censored, although the face that Adrian WAS at that place when the debacle happened. So, Adrian risks his own career by telling the truth, which, of course, upsets Hauk.
This is a unique moral lesson to learn in a movie about Vietnam War. I know that Adrian’s job is to cheer up guys in military suit, but sometimes I think Adrian should have the rights to telling truth. Who knows? News like these might prevent terrorists’ acts in the future.
The feel of Saigon
Although I know that this film was shot mostly in Bangkok (just look at above picture! Few weeks ago I rode a bus that drove through this exact road), it looks amazing and there’s a time in which I forgets that this is the town I live. It looks like Saigon around the time. Okay, there might be few things that slipped in, but I don’t care.
This combines with quick-cut editing. These elements make the film look more like I’m watching a documentary or news footage. I’m totally impressed by that.
As I said above, another reason why I’ve heard a lot about this film is the fact that Chintara Sukapatana, the hottest actress around that time, appeared in this film as Trinh, a Vietnam girl that Adiran falls in love with. She looks really gorgeous here and I’m surprised that she uses her real own voice in this film. Now, I think I have to talk about what’s going on in Thai movie industry around the time. Back then, most of Thai movie were rarely recorded sounds on location. Studios usually dubbed voices/sfx later. Sometimes, real actors/actresses weren’t the one who dubbed their own voices. Chintara is also in this case. Since her voice was consider by studios (I guess) as “not girlish enough”, her voice was dubbed by another dubber (ดวงดาว จารุจินดา).
Anyway, some people may find her English accent/grammar hilarious, but let’s face it. This is the problem that Asian people have met. They (including me, sometimes) have not-so-good grammar and the accent may be not as great as foreigners. But just like in the movie, at least we try to learn English language.
But overall, her character is basically a shy Vietnamese who gives a softer tone to the movie. Plus, there’s a subplot about friendship between Adrian and her brother. I’m not going to spoil the plot here, but in the end…this is one of the great anti-war messages I’ve seen in recent years.
Don’t expect it to be a laugh-out-loud type of comedy, I personally think it’s a drama movie with some elements of comedy and great moral lessons about war and how to work with people in real life.
But honestly, while i’m watching this film, I think I see a parallel between Adrian and Robin Williams. They make us smile and entertain us for a long time. But then, they turn sad and drink a lot.
While Adrian can make a comeback, due to the fact that he later knows that fans still love him, Robin can’t make it.
R.I.P. Robin Williams (1951-2014)