Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2016. Broadway Video, Little Stranger, Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Robert Carlock, based on the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days In Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker. Cinematography by Xavier Grobet. Produced by Ian Bryce, Tina Fey, Lorne Michaels. Music by Nick Urata. Production Design by Beth Mickle. Costume Design by Lisa Lovaas. Film Editing by Jan Kovac.
Tina Fey stars in and produces an adaptation of Kim Barker’s memoir about working as a reporter in Afghanistan. Selected as one of her network’s employees with neither spouse nor child and therefore have nothing to lose, Fey goes to Kabul in 2003 and is immediately plunged into a situation for which she is ill-prepared: culture shock, the madness of the battlefield and the colourful personalities surrounding her make for a quick study in survival, a situation she grows accustomed to over three years, while, back home, interest in the war wanes and her work is increasingly ignored by producers. This “Kabubble” she is in, which also includes flirtation with co-worker Martin Freeman, also becomes something of a dangerous addiction, her charmingly self-effacing attitude in peril of becoming full-blown, burned out cynicism. Lightly told and featuring plenty of witty moments, the film is marred only by a surface performance by the always affable Fey, a brilliant writer and outstanding purveyor of comedy who is always too self-aware to put a character across fully despite being so charismatic; it’s easy to hear her deliver the dialogue, but there’s never a sense that her situation changes her in any deep way. She’s such a welcome presence in films that it’s easily forgiven, and there’s a muddled lack of focus to Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s direction that would be a problem anyway, but it is surprising how little an impression this one makes despite having so many successful elements.