Friday, January 17, 2014

The Birdcage

Who needs Netflix when you have PBS on a weeknight? Last night my roommates and I got to see a classic movie with no commercials, for free, on public programming! We had PBS on while we ate dinner, and after a rather informative program about the Middle East, a movie started. Intrigued as the opening credits rolled (Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, set to "We Are Family"), we kept the TV on. By the time we got to the title, The Birdcage, we were hooked.

This 1996 film tells the story of Armand Goldman (Williams), a gay Jewish owner of a drag club; his partner, Albert (Lane), is the star of the drag show. Their son, Val (Dan Futterman), is 20 and in love with with Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart), a girl from his school and the daughter of a conservative Catholic US Senator (Gene Hackman). Before Senator Keeley and his wife (Dianne Wiest) will agree to/announce Barbara's engagement--it is election year after all--they want to meet Val's parents, who they believe to be a heterosexual couple (as per Barbara's description).

The hilarious climax comes at this meet-and-greet dinner party at the Goldman's home in South Beach. Here we see Robin Williams give perhaps (ironically) one of his least flamboyant, but still genuinely nuanced performances--I thought he was spot-on as Armand. In one of Nathan Lane's breakout roles, Albert is perfect as Val's "mother" and Armand's lover. Hank Azaria as the Goldman's maid/butler Agadore kept all three of us laughing out loud with his voices, dancing, and expressions.

The Birdcage is a comedy through and through--I can't believe this was the first I'd heard of it, but I have PBS to thank for introducing me to this cultural gem!


THANKS: PBS, for your wide variety of programming and commercial-free movies. You gave the Naw a night of pure joy.

FURTHER THANKS: Dad, for all your work in multiple zip codes across which turned into paychecks which turned into bacon, literally and metaphorically. Congrats on your retirement!

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