Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton, Nicholas Braun, Christopher Abbott, Josh Charles, Cherry Jones
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Tina Fey’s body of work so far has been fairly impressive. Notably, Mean Girls was a big moment for her, but I also really enjoyed Baby Mama. Of course, there’s her work on SNL and 30 Rock, but nothing really that would suggest she was interested in dramatic work. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is Tina Fey dipping her toe into the waters of dramatic cinema, hoping to one day be taken seriously as an actress, and not just a comedienne. As a starter film, it works well. It won’t be remembered as her best film, but I think it should be remembered positively as a step in the right direction.
Tina Fey plays Kim Baker who has spent her life measured in regrets, and is offered the opportunity to become a war reporter in Afghanistan. She takes this chance, seeing no other point in her life, and is soon thrust into a fast-paced world where her learning curve has to be sharp to stay alive. She makes friends with other correspondents (Robbie, Freeman), while balancing her relationship with her boyfriend (Charles) via Skype. Ultimately, she wants to make a difference, but she starts to become jaded with wanting more airtime. As the film progresses, Kim changes a lot, and learns what it takes to be a hardened reporter.
I think people who were disappointed with this film expected it to be more of a war movie, but this is more about one woman’s journey. If you go in expecting more of an Eat Pray Love aspect, you’ll have a better understanding of what the film is about. It’s a solo showcase for Fey, nothing more. Yes, the film does offer an interesting perspective on the war, but in many respects it feels too late. It’s not a “statement” film, it’s just a pretty good film reminding you that Fey is capable of more than just making us laugh.
The supporting cast rounds her out well, with strong work from Robbie, Freeman, Molina, and Abbott. It’s amazing to think that Margot Robbie is just 26 years old, when she continues to be offered roles that seem much older than she actually is. I don’t really have any specific problems with the film, just that I liked it, but didn’t love it. I think the film tried too hard to stay in a “dramady” category, which caused it to never be too serious or too funny. Because of that, it never really hit a true strength. The film doesn’t quite work as a comedy or as a drama, winding up in between.
I have high hopes for future work from Fey that pushes her comfort zone as an actress. I think she showed a lot of promise here, and perhaps she could have been pushed more just with this film. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not a bad use of two hours, and is the perfect type of diversion for a night home off Redbox or Netflix.
FINAL GRADE: B+