Saturday, January 7, 2017

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (and Pot)

I had expected Private Benjamin Goes to Kabul. But no. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF), has heart, and brains. And courage.

Tina Fey stars in the story of a journalist who travels to Afghanistan to cover the war, based on Kim Barker's The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Fey purchased the rights to Barker’s book and created the adaptation, which is why, unlike Mozart in the Jungle—which was written by a woman but turned into an Amazon series starring a man—WTF remains the story of a woman.

Kim doesn't wait for a man to validate her or tell her what to do, like Diane Keaton did in Reds or Little Drummer Boy. She's able to anthropologically speak to the women of the tribe and get the real story about why the well keeps getting blown up, a little like Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fosse in Gorillas in the Mist.  Kim blackmails rather than using sex to get what she wants, saves her love using all the resources she can muster, and makes all of her own choices.

So often when a woman gets a choice role, she's paired with actors who aren't her match, like when Nicole Kidman got to play Tokin' Woman Gertrude Bell and someone cast Robert Pattinson as T. E. Lawrence. But here we are treated to Martin Freeman, who was so endearing as the Shy Guy in the British The Office, Love Actually and Sherlock, in a spot-on performance as a Scottish scamp with surprising depth. He and Fey play one of the funniest love scenes ever, with one of the most honest aftermaths.

WTF even adds Billy Bob Thornton—who's hot even in the Bad Santa movies—as the brassy, brass tacks general Kim needs on her side. Also notable are Alfred Molina (Chocolat) as the clownishly threatening public official she also must tango with, and Josh Charles as the man she leaves behind. The cherry on top is the stupendous Cherry Jones in yet another formidable role.

It even has my money shot: Fey puffing a hookah, with no less than Margot Robbie by her side, a 15 in Kabul or anywhere and winner of the 2016 Tokin' Woman Phattest Fashion Award, who portrays a worthy rival to Fey's character.

This is generally how pot should be depicted, as an adjunct to the story. Not that you smoke it and have idiotic Seth Rogan-style misadventurers. That it's just one of your experiences. The scene in WTF where Fey and her Afghan driver (Christopher Abbott) discuss drugs of all types and the high they produce is one of the best written and acted I have ever seen.

Skip the sappy LaLa Land and see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot instead, now on Amazon.

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