Tina Fey becomes a leading lady in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

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Without question, Tina Fey is an A-list comedy actress, but I’m not sure how many people realize how good she is at more serious fare. She’s gotten opportunities before, but Fey really gets a chance to shine in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which is hitting theaters this week. It’s a dramedy perhaps more at home in the fall than the winter, but it’s a real showcase for Fey, who is quite good in the lead role. If she starts getting offered parts that could lead to an eventual Academy Award nomination in Best Actress or even Best Supporting Actress, this performance will likely be one of the main reasons why.

The film is a comedy/dramedy centered on Kim Baker (Fey), a journalist recounting her time covering the war in Afghanistan. Initially stuck in a rut back in New York, Kim opts to leave behind her boyfriend (Josh Charles) and head to the front lines, trying her hand at being a war correspondent. With the help of a kind handler/interpreter (Christopher Abbot) and a fellow female reporter (Margot Robbie), she begins to make her way. Comedy and tragedy ensues, as is more or less expected here. The filmmaking team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa direct, with the adaptation of the real Baker (named Kim Barker) memoir coming from Robert Carlock. The rest of the cast, in addition to the aforementioned Fey and company, includes Nicholas Braun, Martin Freeman, Cherry Jones, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton, and many more. The cast is strong, but Fey is the star.

Fey really makes this work. In fact, without her, I don’t think I would have found the film nearly as enjoyable. The acting is solid across the board, but you only really identity with her. Without Fey, Ficarra and Requa probably would have had an ambitious yet hollow movie on their hands. The script by Carlock is more chuckle inducing than funny, so it’s up to her to really make some of the scenes sing. Robbie is a strong supporter (familiar with the directors from last year’s Focus), but it’s Fey this time who gets to be a lead and shine the brightest. Again, I do believe that this could really lead to bigger things for her. She’s already an underserved talent in cinema, though I think that’s on the cusp of changing.

Awards wise, I don’t think that Oscar will come calling at all for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. If it did, it would be a surprise Best Actress nomination for Fey. More likely, this will appeal to the Hollywood Foreign Press, leading to a potentially decent showing at the Golden Globes. Unless the early year release ruins it, I think nominations in Best Comedy/Musical as well as Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical (for Fey) seem like safe bets right now. We’ll have to see what happens, since something like this can easily fall through the cracks, especially if it’s not a financial success, but I’d keep an eye on it when the time comes late in 2016.

Overall, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a decent film made better by the presence of Fey. That’s been the case before, but never quite on this level, or with her as a leading lady. On Friday, audiences can begin scoping her out in this flick, hopefully embracing it and her along the way. If you’re a fan of her previous work, this will offer up something new for you to admire. It’s not a movie to go nuts over, but Fey makes it work, as mentioned more than once already. She makes it worth seeing, so give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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