Good directors. Great comedic actor trying to make the step towards a more serious role. Martin Freeman playing a sex symbol with a heart of gold. Yes, this will be good.
Tina Fey is trying to expand herself and I applaud the effort. She’s been, of her own accord, pigeon-holed as the smart, semi-sexy lady for so long (as much as she tried to deflate the stereotype with her borderline disgusting Liz Lemon habits) it seems now that she’s attempting to move forward, to cross the perceived-Rubicon that is the gaping chasm between comedic and serious acting. Thus, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s (solid comedic directors also attempting to spread their little wings further) film rests almost entirely on if we the audience will believe that Tina Fey can take that next step. The film, based on journalist Kim Baker’s (Fey) memoir about her time spent in Afghanistan as an embedded war reporter, is, to some degree, about a woman trying to change her image (though in this case, her original image is sad and lonely, and the new image is drunk and lonely) and thus the meta-context of Fey trying to change her image by playing a woman trying to change her image is, well, pretty in your face. And because of it, I found myself, in the opening moments, entirely distracted by trying to parse out if Fey was convincing as the character, but it’s difficult in this film, because Fey’s portrayal of Baker revolves around her using humor as a way to deal with the awkwardness of suddenly being thrust into the war-torn, poverty-stricken, deeply Islamic world of Kabul, Afghanistan. You want Fey to be taking the step towards seriousness, but she’s chosen a character that is doing exactly the opposite. And yes, for a while all I could focus on was the fact that Fey, for a long period of time, plays to her smart, sort-of-sexy, self-deprecating image, and it is a little distracting. But eventually this viewer was so enamored by the extremely large heart that beats in the middle of this lovely picture about what human beings do to escape the realities of life, and how far we’ll go to not have to face up to what we’re running from, that you’ll forget that this might be that transitional moment for Fey (and yes, at times you have to suspend your disbelief when Fey veers towards Liz Lemon impersonations) and instead just realize that Fey is a very talented actress who’s chosen a role that allows her to play to her strengths and explore new, more dramatic avenues. And then, with that anxiety now floated down the river, you can sit back and enjoy the poignant, very funny film, these talented human beings have made.
One Last Thought:
I don’t know if there’s enough time between now and then for this movie not to feel just a touch exploitive. We still have troops in Afghanistan and we’re still deeply involved in the destabilization of a nation that’s already pretty shaky. To drop this film in the lap of movie goers, with it’s slightly judgmental tone towards Muslim culture and it’s edgy sense of humor (often times also aimed at Muslim culture) seems slightly off-color and I wonder if Hollywood had waited just a few more years if that, coupled with the FeyWatch distraction, wouldn’t have even popped up in my brain.
One More Last Thought:
Martin Freeman should be the next James Bond. No, really, he could be.