Movie Round-Up: Thank You For Your Service? Maybe Not So Much…

Ah, another Friday, another movie review post!

Of course, the biggest story this weekend is Thank You For Your Service, the “inspired by a true story” film about an Iraq War veteran’s struggle to readjust to civilian life. The movie stars Miles Teller, who has had an up-and-down track record, ranging from the highly successful Only the Brave and Whiplash, to the utterly abysmal Fantastic Four…, oh sorry, I meant Fan4stick. Thank You For Your Service has so far earned roughly a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, so not quite “Certified Fresh,” but not necessarily bad. Tony Medley of the Tolucan Times says that the movie, “…realistically details battles of heroic U.S. servicemen with PTS and the strains put on wives who try to cope. Eye-opening, it’s very well-directed and written with exceptional acting by a fine cast.” Similarly, Nell Minow, the “Movie Mom,” says it is, “So decent, respectful, sincere, and, most of all, so vitally needed that it is difficult to evaluate it as a movie.” Which seems to be what director Jason Hall was going for. In an interview with Fox News, Hall said that his ultimate goal with this movie is to, “start a conversation” about veterans and the issues they face.

However, some critics feel the movie is a waste of potential. Adam Graham of Detroit News says, “Thank You for Your Service tells an important story but is pedestrian in its telling. Vets deserve a better thank you.” And Scott Marks of the San Diego Reader sums it up by saying, “Keep moving, folks; there’s nothing here you haven’t seen done better a hundred times before.” Now, if I may editorialize for just a moment, that is what I was afraid of when I first heard about this movie.

Let me start by saying that I have not seen the movie. Everything I’m about to say could be totally off base. But the issue I am facing is not not only do I want to see the movie, but should I see it? Getting a bit personal here, but I am a disabled vet myself. I have some mental issues stemming from my two deployments to Iraq. I say this not for sympathy, but to let you understand where I’m coming from. I understand that a lot of veterans have troubles readjusting and reintegrating back into civilian life after deployments, and some scars aren’t visible. However, over the past few years, public awareness of these issues has grown by leaps and bounds, to the point now where the “tragic hero” portrayal of vets is getting a little tiresome. With Joe Schmo movie watcher being inundated with that message so much, they may start to think that every veteran is “damaged goods,” or a ticking time-bomb of violence and drug addiction.  How about a movie about your average soldier, hmm? That’s what I want to see: a movie about a dude that comes home, blows most of his deployment money buying a Mustang, gets drunk off of 3 beers, and then comes home and has an ungodly amount of sex with his wife.

And then there’s issues with the very title, “Thank You For Your Service.” Forgive me for being blunt, but I, and some other vets like me, have always seen that as a hollow platitude, a perfunctory or automatic saying. Something for a civilian to say so they can say they said something. What does it mean? Thank me for what service? What specifically are you thanking me for? I don’t mean to be rude, but vets can hear that phrase so many times a day that it just fades into hollow noise. Secondly, based on the previews, the movie seems just like the title: perfunctory. Predictable. I can already tell you some of the scenes. There will be a scene of him losing his temper and yelling at someone over nothing, a scene of him waking up in bed screaming, then telling his wife, “Don’t worry about it,” or, “It’s nothing.” Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these scenes, but they will need to be handled in an exceptionally well done manner, otherwise it seems insulting to the average movie-goer. They’ve seen them before in movies like American Sniper which, incidentally, Jason Hall wrote the screenplay for.

Again, I must state that I have not seen the movie! I could be totally wrong and it could be fantastic! The point I’m trying to make is that the “conversation” that Hall wants to start might not be the one he intended. Instead of “trying to start a conversation,” maybe veterans would be best served by trying to make a good movie first, and then worry about conversations.

I went off on a bit of a tangent, so let’s end with a look at the Box Office! In a continuing, if not slightly depressing, trend, low-rated movies ruled the Box this past week. Boo 2: A Madea Halloween by director and star Tyler Perry raked in $21.7 million despite earning only 7% on RT. And right behind that, at a pitiful 13%, is Geostorm, which somehow managed to earn $13.3 million. In third place, the horror romp Happy Death Day, raked in $9.4 million

Next week is looking pretty great for movie-goers, with Thor: Ragnarock, A Bad Moms Christmas, and My Friend Dahmer all debuting.  Make sure to stop by ConnectingVets.com next week for more views and reviews!

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