Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Classic Comedies: The Birdcage

I love comedies. Laughter gives me a temporary and pleasurable escape from the rigors of life. One of my favorite movies of all time is also one of the funniest. "The Birdcage", a 1996, Mike Nichols directed adaptation of the French classic "Le Cage Au Follies" and starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams is a uproarious tale of what happens when you try to be something you're not.

Val Goldman (Dan Futterman), the son of Armand Goldman (Williams) and his lover Albert (Lane), has a surprise for his not-so-traditional parents on a visit home from college. He's fallen in love and is getting married to the daughter (Calista Flockhart) of a notoriously conservative Senator from Ohio (Gene Hackman). Val convinces Armand that he's got to 'play it straight' for the impending meeting between the future in-laws. The only problem is what to do with Albert.

As his alter-ego, Starina, Albert is the ultimate diva and star of the show at Armand's Miami nightclub, the Birdcage. Upstairs from the cabaret, Albert plays the resident wife, mother, and drama queen. As expected, Albert doesn't take too kindly to the suggestion of leaving and what follows is a series of side-splitting scenes as the Goldmans prepare for the arrival of the Keeleys (Hackman and Dianne Wiest).

Here are some highlights:

-One of the funniest scenes of the movie is when Armand tries to teach Albert how to 'act' straight. Albert's hysteria at not being able to hold his pinky down while drinking coffee and trying to walk like John Wayne make for terrific hilarity.

-Hank Azaria gives an added comic presence as Agador Spartacus, Armand and Albert's faithful houseboy. With a thick Spanish accent and an inability to wear shoes without tripping all over the place, Agador provides random laughs throughout the film.

-When the Keeleys finally arrive for dinner, Albert comes out as Val's mom, much to the horror of Val, Armand, and Agador. The Senator becomes smitten with Mrs. Goldman, much to the dismay of his wife. The entire dinner scene is a series of hilarious moments, like this one:

o"What interesting china! Why, it looks like young men playing leapfrog" (Mrs. Keeley, commenting on the dinner dishes at the Goldman house).

- One of the most sidesplitting moments comes at the end of the film. Once the Goldman's secret's been let out and the families are about to go their separate ways, the Keeleys are blocked from leaving by a media circus parked outside the Birdcage. The press had followed the Senator all the way from Ohio looking for a scoop on a political scandal he's embroiled in. With no apparent escape, Albert has an idea that closes out the movie leaving the viewers in stitches. The two clans make their escape through the Birdcage's finale number ("We Are Family"), unassumingly meandering through the crowd and out of the club in full stage attire. Let's just say that Gene Hackman makes for one ugly drag queen!

The Birdcage is a great, funny movie. If you love to laugh, this is one film that's sure to tickle your funny bone. Here are a few places to pick up The Birdcage:,

Buy Cheap DVD,

Deep Discount,

Movie Gold Mine,

Museum of Broadcast Communications,

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