– by Cecily Knobler, Live From Hollywood –
1) Martin Freeman co-stars in the film as a cocky Scottish photojournalist (you may remember him from the BBC’s The Office or his role as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, and he’s number one on my celebrity cheat list. That means that if I were in a relationship, he is the first person on a random list of celebrities that I’d want to make out with, and it would be okay. This is all assuming it’s something Freeman would want. Of course, his girlfriend/wife would have to cosign as well, but we can work out those details on a different day.
2) I’ve mentioned this before, but my favorite movie subject is media/journalism. This most certainly ticks that box.
3) I enjoy Tina Fey and, with a few exceptions, I find that she can do no wrong.
4) I like the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain, and the film opens with a ecstasy-fueled dance scene to that tune. I’m embarrassed I’ve just admitted that.
So now that I’ve fully disclosed everything, I’m going to go counter to popular opinion and say I actually enjoyed this movie. Yes, the “fish out water” story, even though it’s based on the real life experiences of journalist Kim Barker, comes across as contrived in film form. But the main issue overall is that the movie is trying to be too many things: funny, poignant and terrifying. This isn’t to say a film can’t be all of those things (and in real-life Afghanistan perhaps it was like this). It’s just that in this case, it doesn’t all work.
What does work, however, is showcasing Fey as a dramatic actor. I don’t think she’ll be remembered as one of the best of our time, but she certainly proves she’s capable. (We already knew she was likable.) The rest of the cast, including Margot Robbie as the super-hot, tenacious TV reporter, Billy Bob Thornton as a cynical Marine, Alfred Molina as an incredibly inappropriate Afghan political leader and the aforementioned Freeman are all greatly convincing.
Themes like “what drives ratings” and “war news fatigue” are so important, and I’m glad Barker’s book and this film addresses them. It’s not a perfect movie by a long shot, but its hopeful, female-empowering bottom line keeps it centered. If nothing else, it’s worth a rental. B –