What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic film is excellent -- and also shows the marks of its time (1970) and the era in which it was set (the Korean War in the 1950s) with considerable sexist, racist, and xenophobic behavior. Hawkeye and Trapper John sexually harass Hoolihan because she disagrees with their free-wheeling behavior. Duke calls a black neurosurgeon a "negro boy" and Hawkeye and Trapper John speak gibberish Japanese. There's also considerable sex and brief nudity, as well as lots of surgery-related blood and gore.
What's the story?
Robert Altman's rollicking war satire gets rolling when newly drafted surgeon "Hawkeye" Pierce (Donald Sutherland) arrives in Korea and immediately sets out to prove he's no military man. He steals a Jeep, kids around with Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt), and joins forces with fellow surgeon and rebel "Trapper" John McIntyre (Elliott Gould). They make short work of by-the-book officers like Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and head nurse Margaret "Hot Lips" Hoolihan (Sally Kellerman), mostly by forms of humiliation that would today be considered sexual harassment. In short, they don't let being located in a war zone stop them from having fun.
Is it any good?
It's easy to see why this blockbuster film became such a great TV show. Its series of wacky antics – including the pseudo suicide of a well-endowed dentist and golfing in Japan -- resemble nothing so much as a series of TV shows. There's no plot other than undoing the rigidness on which the military depends.
While this is all fun, it's also likely to be offensive to many viewers. The extreme sexism and sexualization of the female nurses, the homophobic comments about a man who thinks he might be gay, and the condescending attitudes about people of color may be accurate for their time, but are likely to mar some people's enjoyment of the film.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the role of satire in American culture. How is this film a satire of war? What's fun about satire and what's not? What other movies use biting satire to make an important point? Do they do it as well as this movie does?