What film could possibly be a better penultimate Pride Month review than a movie about a gay couple who run a drag revue in South Beach? It could only Robin Williams’ and Nathan Lane’s double-act classic, The Birdcage.
Release Date: 1996
Awards: Nominated for a smattering of Academy Awards and Golden Globes. Winner of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the SAG awards.
Rating: 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, lots of positive reviews. Pretty good!
So, the birdcage is about two fabulous gay men, Armand and Albert (Robin Williams and Nathan Lane respectively) who own a club, meeting the parents of their son Val (Dan Futterman)’s fiancé Barbara (Calista Flockhart). Barbara’s parents (Gene Hackman and Dianne West) are ultra conservative, so Val asks his Dad to rope in his biological mother (Christine Baranski) and send Albert away for the night so they present as a “normal” family. Obviously nothing goes to plan and hilarity ensues.
The movie is a remake of French-Italian film La Cage Aux Folles by Édouard Molinaro. Don’t ask me to tell you how close a reproduction it is, you know I’ve not seen it. A reporter from the Washington Post said the movie was “A spirited remake of the French drag farce” so I’m guessing it’s fairly similar, if not a bit more wild.
Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are just brilliant in this movie. Literally every time Lane appears on screen, you can guarantee a laugh. Albert has a drag act, Starina, and he’s so fabulously camp and OTT. Watching Albert try to walk like John Wayne made me laugh much, much harder than I ever thought possible.
Every scene was apparently filmed twice, one take true to the script and one where the cast were able to improvise. You can easily see why you’d want to let that happen; Robin Williams is known for his comic ability and this movie is a prime example of his ability and the natural chemistry he has when acting opposite Lane.
It has to be said, the cast in its entirety is pretty spectacular in this movie. Hank Azaria plays Agador Spartacus, the chaotic houseboy and has some brilliant slapstick moments, particularly when he is made to wear shoes; something he strongly warns against.
It’s easy to look at this movie on face value and see a son who is ashamed of his gay parents whilst trying to impress the conservative parents of his girlfriend, and miss the heart of this movie. When the characters get to be themselves, we see how much better they can be, and also how accepting something you are against can help get you out of a sticky situation – even if that does mean getting into drag.
This film is hilarious, even if it’s about a son acting as though he’s ashamed of his family because of who they are. I will definitely be watching this again, and I’d actively encourage everyone else to watch it too!
Is there an iconic film or album you think I should have experienced by now? Let me know @MoveToTRASHUK #latelatereview