Tina Fey is outside her rom-com element in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. So much so that she finds herself uncomfortably outside her skillset; I’d rather have her stick to her self-effacing, whip smart funny and cute girl roles.
But developing her career past the comedy grooves she’s carved, Fey plays Kim Baker in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a New York news writer sick of her job who jumps at a shot at on-screen reporting in Kabul, Afghanistan in the early 2000s. There she meets other fellow Western expatriates, including Tanya (Margot Robbie), Nic (Stephen Peacocke), and Iain (Martin Freeman). In this quad in the heart of the “Kabubble,” we find a sexy reporter, a flirty security contractor, and a foul-mouthed British photographer, respectively. Following the direction of directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, we have yet another narrative of professional Anglo Westerner and her professional Anglo Westerner friends bewildered by the world and taken away by the whirlwind that is ethnic traditions and foreign romanticism of the elsewhere, whisking them from the normalcy of life.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is, firstly, based on a memoir by former war correspondent Kim Barker and her time in the Middle East. Fictionalizing Barker to Baker maybe suggests that the film kept it close to context when it came to movie-izing the memoir. But the sincerity meter points the other direction. Instead, we’ve got a romanticization of a wartime professional to sexy and capable, speaking in pithy and pointed speech. Totally normal, right? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot hits all the goodies of basic generationers wanting more or less to be Baker – all cultured and educated and well-traveled.
There must be a way to carry out this narrative without exhausting the storyline of Westerner changed forever with a trip to the Land of Olive Skinned People, making a few Westerner friends along the way who share her plight. It’s quite understood that this is a different world for these characters; let the ooohs and aaahhhs roll in from the dichotomy that is a world that is not ‘Murica. But I’ve yet to see the narrative with sincerity and tact of someone who worked in this Land of the Others without making it about her. And at that, I’ll whiskey tango foxtrot my way on to the next Westerner in the warzone movie that will or won’t be the same this time.
Written by Dara Kim