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
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
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