John Requa and Glenn Ficarra strike a nice balance between “war is hell” and absurdist comedy in their adaptation of Kim Baker’s memoir about life as a journalist in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan from 2003 to 2006. Tina Fey plays Baker, stretching her acting muscles to play a network copy writer/producer who volunteers to cover Kabul as a way to shake herself from a career rut, then finds herself getting hooked on the adrenaline-fueled insanity of the “Ka-bubble.” The narrative is almost entirely episodic, following Baker’s relationships with her makeshift Kabul family—including a fellow reporter (Margot Robbie), her Afghan guide/translator (Christopher Abbott) and a horny Scottish freelance photographer (Martin Freeman)—in a place where “normalcy” is an oxymoron. And while Fey seems far less comfortable with the drama than with the comedy—and the script by 30 Rock veteran/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt creator Robert Carlock is better in general when it’s funny than when it’s trying to make a point—there’s still a solid story here about Westerners trying to cope with war-zone craziness. That’s how you put some bite in what is basically a “white lady trying to find herself” tale.
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