Hot Take: For the longest time, I’ve been telling myself maybe Tina Fey just isn’t getting the right vehicles for her to be amazing in. After Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I realized maybe I don’t care for Tina Fey all that much and maybe she’s not going to have a right vehicle for her to be amazing in.
Maybe it’s too harsh to blame Tina Fey directly for the complete unevenness of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Thanks to some terrible marketing which portrayed the film in a much more comedic light, it took some adjustment to the more serious tone of the film. Based on such a misrepresentation, it was unsurprising to see a few people walk out of the showing. This in no way is the reason the film was uneven but it’s easily the reason it was so noticeable.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot isn’t a bad movie. It’s a very mediocre movie. The kind of movie you don’t hate enough to even discuss all that much and will probably forget you saw when you come across it one late night on cable. It just exists. Actually, if anything, it feels like you consistently get half of the story. When WTF goes down an avenue you’re excited to see it take, the film quickly darts down a side alley and heads down a different path. Occasionally, it’ll find that avenue again and then dart down a different alley as quickly as it found the avenue you were hoping it would take.
As for Fey, she’s likely to get solid to rave reviews for her performance. There will likely be three types of reviews: (1) Fey delivers an amazing performance in her best movie yet, (2) Fey stands out in a mediocre film, and (3) Fey’s great performance can’t even save this film from itself. But here we offer a fourth: WTF is pointless and cliché and Fey is what she is. The film feels small enough to not be on the big screen. It feels like an HBO movie. Is this the movie’s fault or Fey’s fault? At times, it feels like both.
In the end, maybe WTF is all about expectations. If you go in expecting a hilarious comedic farce or a politically charged look at the war in Afghanistan, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re ok with an occasionally funny drama with the war in Afghanistan as the backdrop to the story of a women trying to succeed in a man’s world and see her be professionally successful while becoming personally unsuccessful and the catharsis that ensues, maybe WTF is for you.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Christopher Abbott
“Whitewashing” aside, Abbott turns in a brilliant performance as Fahim Ahmadzai who is the guide for Kim Baker (Fey) as she professionally navigates the ins and outs of being a war correspondent in Afghanistan. Their relationship is the only fully believable one had between Baker and any other character she interacts with.
- Those Avenues
Occasionally, WTF peers down some paths that seem interesting if only given the time. Too bad the movie is too hellbent on getting back to Baker downing shots and maybe sleeping with someone because she’s a 9 or 10 in Kabul. The film glances and then assumes you already know so why bother telling you… unfortunately, it’s the result of drinking too much and debauchery that we all are already too familiar with.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Correspondent Frat
Too much time is spent on watching the correspondents cope with their surroundings by drinking, partying and contemplating sex.
- Alfred Molina
Molina is a cartoon version of a political leader in Afghanistan who develops a crush on Fey’s character. It’s hard to imagine why this casting decision was made and why Molina would subject himself to such a lame role.
- By the Time It Tries to Be Heavy WTF Has Already Floated Away
Often, WTF doesn’t take itself very seriously. When the film straps in for some more serious, deeper moments, it’s hard to actually take it serious. Then there’s the problem that when it’s light, it is underwhelming in the humor department. It’s kind of the worst of both worlds.
- Too Many Parallels to Recent Bad Movies
The film is very reminiscent of recent duds. The two that come to mind quickly are Our Brand Is Crisis and Rock the Kasbah. Neither are very similar as a whole but if you deconstruct both and mix and match the parts, you might end up with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.