Over the weekend I didn’t know what to say about the sad and untimely death of Robin Williams. The TV schedule gave me a certain prospective when I watched Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) for the first time in twenty years. It was the first Robin Williams film that I had seen when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, I have seen it a couple of times since but not for around twenty years. I actually remember the movie best from the sound-bites that intersperse the soundtrack album.
loosely based to a true story; Saigon in 1965, as the Vietnam War heats up DJ Adrian Cronauer ( Robin Williams) is drafted in to liven up Armed Forces Radio. He quickly becomes a hit with the troops and his co workers but clashes with the Lieutenant and Sergeant Major (Bruno Kirby & J.T. Walsh). The realities of the war soon become clear.
The film is very much as I remember it, filled with funny moments but with the sad and harsh realities of war. The thing I had forgotten, or more likely was unaware of at the time was what a good Vietnam movie it is, in fact it is amongst the best. I didn’t see Apocalypse Now (1979) and Platoon (1986) until a couple of years after I had seen Good Morning, Vietnam, I would now say they are my three seminal Vietnam movies. Fans of Robin Williams are often divided between is comic and dramatic roles (with or without facial hair!), Good Morning, Vietnam is the film that combines both sides of his ability. We see the improvised comedy moments as well as pure acting performance. Williams was nominated for an Oscar, the first of four nominations, he lost out to Michael Douglas for Wall Street, he finally won ten years later for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Good Will Hunting (1997).
Whatever happens now, I don’t expect to ever understand why Robin Williams took his own life, all I can do is enjoy his best films, and Good Morning, Vietnam is certainly one of his best films.