July 13, 2011

Queer Review: The Birdcage

The Birdcage
Director: Mike Nichols
Writers: Elaine May. Based upon the movie "La Cage Aux Folles" by Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon, and Jean Poiret, which was based upon the original play by Jean Poiret.
Cast: Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski

First a play, then a French-Italian film released back in 1978, The Birdcage is a delightful comedy about how hiding one's true identity can lead to Murphy becoming the law of the land.

Together, Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) and Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane) own a nightclub called The Birdcage. Armand has a son, Val (Dan Futterman) who at the beginning announces that he intends to marry Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart) the daughter of a prominent Senator, Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman) who happens to be the Vice-President of the Coalition for Moral Order and is such an ultra-conservative that he describes Bob Dole as "liberal". Fearing the Senators reaction if he were to find out he has gay parents, Val convinces Armand and Albert to "straighten up" and convinces his biological mom Katherine Archer (Christine Baranski) to help with the charade. As these sort of situations in movies always do, things are bound to go horrifically wrong.

The Queering
Do not expect subtlety. The opening number "We Are Family" announces that this is going to be a movie condemning the evils of bigotry. There is really little thematic analysis to be done besides that though. The only other theme of significance is the usual message about the importance of being true to oneself. This is pretty much a straight up farce and a highly enjoyable one at that. The humor and always witty dialogue keep the slim plot barrelling forward, like an out of control train on a collision course with a ticking time bomb.

The clear star of this show is Nathan Lane, whose character Albert's alter ego Starina is a hoot, even though she only has a few moments of screen time. Gene Hackman and Robin Williams are also fun to watch.

One of the weaker elements include Hank Azaria's character who is a little too over the top and comes dangerously close to being a dumb gay and feminine caricature. Dan Futterman and Calista Flockhart are also a little flat, although that is probably because the screenplay does not really develop their characters or relationship.

Other than that, there is nothing much for me to say. To use the cliché, this is one fabulous movie.

Highly recommended, there is nothing wrong with being captured by this birdcage.

The Rating


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