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In & Out

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: In & Out

Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack
Director: Frank Oz
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: September 1997
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Tom Selleck, Debbie Reynolds, Matt Dillon, Bob Newhart

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

It's taking awhile, but slowly the comedy genre of straight actors playing gay guys is going mainstream. What began with outrageous dragfests like TO WONG FOO, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING, JULIE NEWMAR and THE BIRDCAGE has given way to more realistic, traditional morality-threatening films like IN & OUT. The beauty of IN & OUT, in its message of toleration and individuality, is that it can still be enjoyed by the most homophobic hetero men because it's just plain funny.

Frank Oz, who ten years ago brought us DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, directs from a script by Paul Rudnick. A lot of times, IN & OUT is just as merciless on pop culture as the Rudnick-penned ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES, with the same quota of intelligent one- liners. It's a good foundation for a movie that is full of extraordinarily likeable people -- I loved seeing Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, Bob Newhart and Debbie Reynolds all make me laugh in one movie.

The leading man here is Kevin Kline, who has exuded smarmy masculinity in comedies like A FISH CALLED WANDA and FRENCH KISS. The best word to describe his IN & OUT character is "prissy." He is an English teacher, absolutely nuts about sonnets and Streisand. He wears neatly-tailored suits, rides to school on a bike rather than destroy the environment and can't resist dancing no matter how hard he tries. It's not as if these are innately bad things, just not commonly accepted macho behavior.

Still, everyone thinks this is all right because Kline is engaged to Cusack and has been for the past three years. They haven't consummated the relationship, so we sense Kline's "heterosexuality" may never have been lab tested. And when the school's most famous actor alumnus (Matt Dillon) wins an Oscar (for a hilariously bad turn as a gay military officer), dedicating his performance to Kline with the words "and he's gay!" all small town hell breaks loose.

It turns into a media circus, with every conceivable question thrown at Kline ("Do you know Ellen?"). Things get unstable. Principal Newhart, still stammering as much as ever, makes it clear that Kline's job is in jeopardy if what Dillon said is true. Kline's parents (Reynolds and Wilford Brimley) begin to come undone. Reynolds, almost continuing her MOTHER performance, can't imagine going to her grave without throwing a wedding for her son, and Brimley... well, old Wilford don't want no fruit for a kid because, remember, Quaker Oats are "the right thing to do," not men.

Selleck, sans moustache and Hawaiian shirt, is the most aggressive TV journalist out to make Kline's life hell, and we soon find out why. He's very, very gay and he's digging for more than just the scoop. Yeah, he's got the hots for Kev, but Kline is in denial and Cusack's life would lie in ruins without this wedding. Her situation, losing a lot of weight to net a man so she'll have some self esteem, deserves almost as much sympathy as Kline's search for a sexual identity.

IN & OUT draws a huge laugh quotient from a still- controversial premise, and directs it in such a way that it still turns into a happy, idyllic ending with a mate for everyone and a MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS testimonial climax. Even the villain figures, like Newhart and Dillon's insensitive, anorexic model girlfriend (Shalom Harlow), are likeable, and boogie with everyone else in the closing sequence.

There's an entirely different genre of serious-as-hell gay dramas that focus on the real struggles of the homosexual community, but it's this fun fluff that draws the big names and the big bucks at the box office. IN & OUT is no exception.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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