Kim Baker sits in a news meeting cracking wise when her producer asks the single and childless around him who volunteers to be shipped for war coverage duty in Kabul.
Better than breaking into tears like one of her peers, you can see in the eyes of Tina Fey as she sets the scene for this news writer at the start of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a comedy-drama hybrid directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and written by Robert Carlock based on the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker.
Again in Hollywood’s wont, make that somewhat loosely based. Note that the big screen newswoman who takes to the network TV screens name is Tina Baker while the real life author, Tina Barker, wrote for the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
Ah, well, Baker decides to take the assignment as she evaluates her life on a gym exercise bike. She says bye to her somewhat interested boyfriend (played in something just a bit more than a cameo by Josh Charles) as he’s arriving from a business trip and she’s departing at the airport.
And she’s totally unprepared for what awaits in Kabul. Dust. No, make that feces in the air. Wind. Foreign people! Even in the news corps, with a big group with a variety of personalities and accents that shares a house that she casts a wary eye upon.
But her camera people and guards and fellow on-camera journalists and even the U.S. military folk do the most to make her feel comfortable. Which she does, with some more cracking of jokes and a settling in to cover the dang war with some serious gusto.
Fey’s work stands at the center of it all as Margot Robbie’s correspondent teachers her how she’s a 9 in Kabul instead of a 6 back home, and Billy Bob Thornton’s General tells her to not sleep with his Marines, and Martin Freeman’s Scottish journalist turns from cad to cuddly.
We know she’s good at the funny stuff. Here she proves she can handle the part of a woman in serious work, political and social stress as well. And remain interesting.
The smallish Saturday matinée crowd in the big Regal Cinemas theater at Syracuse area Shoppingtown mall appeared won over by both sides of Fey, as well as Baker’s story taken from Barker’s life.
In my book, it’s far better than one of the last two movies of similar stripe, Bill Murray’s disappointing Rock the Kasbah and certainly superior than Sandra Bullock’s somewhat uneven Crisis Is Our Brand.
Are you ready for Tina Fey to move from comedy to more serious roles? Does it influence you one way or another that this movie about Kabul was shot in the desert of New Mexico? What’s your favorite Tina Fey movie, and why?