A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Continuing the marathon that celebrates the career of Robin Williams is a lesser known piece, a ‘gay interest’ film as it was labelled. 1996’s “The Birdcage” is a quirky, over the top, chaotic comedy film that is based around sexuality, impressions and acceptance.
Williams leads a stellar cast through excitement, tension, drama and frivolity as a somewhat ostentatious cabaret club owner, dealing with change and conflict along the way.
On Miami Beach, Armand Goldman runs a popular gay cabaret club known as ‘The Birdcage’ in which his flamboyant partner, Albert (Nathan Lane) performs in drag on a regular basis.
A heterosexual ‘fling’ that Armand was involved in some 20 years ago resulted in a son who was in turn, raised by two fathers and never knew his biological mother Katherine Archer (Christine Baranski).
When son Val (Dan Futterman) becomes engaged to Barbara Keeley, Armand and Albert are informed by Val about her parents. The Keeley’s are not only an extremely right-wing, conservative pair, husband Sen. Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman) is the vice president of the Committee for Moral Order.
When Val and Barbara arrange for their parents to meet, chaos, dilemmas and hysteria ensue.
“The Birdcage” is a fantastically well crafted comedic piece, however it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before as far as a storyline is concerned.
The film constantly has similarities to “Meet The Parents”, however that came four years after “The Birdcage” was released. The direction from Mike Nichols is very enjoyable and always on an electric level which makes for some tense and disorderly viewing.
There are plenty of homosexual jokes, some of which are fitting of the era (not so much nowadays), but overall the laughter is relatively consistent.
The way that the film is shot in a couple of examples adds a lovely touch to the experience overall. For example, the opening shot is an extended helicopter shot that journeys across the ocean, onto land and directly into ‘The Birdcage’ nightclub in which a performance is taking place, ever so ironically to the tune of ‘We Are Family’.
The effects used here must have been expensive and intricate, as the transitions are barely noticeable – a real credit to the production team.
The other example involves mirrors and the clever camerawork involving them to include numerous cast members within the same shot even if they’re positioned at opposite ends of a room. Using mirrors as the centrepiece of a shot, especially one that tracks or pans across a room is always difficult and risky, but if it can be accomplished well, it pays off immensely.
Williams once again gives the audience a hefty dose of his charm, charisma and brilliance in what would appear to be an unfamiliar role for him. The supporting cast are also brilliant; names such as Hank Azaria and Diane West give confident performances.
With chaotic antics dominating the progression of the story, “The Birdcage” is not one to take overly seriously. It’s a lot of fun but it’s no masterpiece. For a lighthearted laugh, this is a great one to have on the list for a rainy day.