BILOXI BLUES works better than the script alone would suggest, thanks to the skillful direction of Nichols and excellent performances from Broderick and Walken.
An adaptation of Simon's autobiographical play, the film follows New Yorker Broderick through his Army basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, in the last days of WWII. The Biloxi heat gets him down, as does his strange drill sergeant, Walken, whose sadism works in quiet, mysterious ways, sowing
dissent among his troops. Weeks of bad food, long marches, and humiliation are somewhat relieved when Broderick falls in love with Miller while on weekend leave. When his buddies find Broderick's notes and read his hurtful remarks about them--including his musings about whether Parker is
homosexual--the aspiring writer discovers just how powerful words can be.
Successfully opening up Simon's popular play, Nichols avoids presenting the jokes in the sitcom formula typical of Simon, as set-ups to big punchlines. Broderick brings appealing nuances to the role he created onstage, and Walken makes his sergeant a quietly chilling, ambiguous character. An
intelligent, tightly constructed film which manages to satirize both the military and the process of growing up.
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