With a cast like Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Newhart, a director like Frank Oz, and a writer like Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey), what on earth could be wrong with this movie? Very little, as it turns out – enough to say, see a matinee showing but buy lots of snacks.
A former student (Matt Dillon) of teacher Mr. Brackett (Kline), while giving his Oscar acceptance speech, declares his mentor to be homosexual on national TV. Uproar ensues and a little self-doubt and worry on the part of Kline. He is also about to marry Miss Montgomery (hee hee! my dream came true!) played by Joan Cusack, and the whole, small, midwestern town, who adores him, is torn between shunning him and deciding he’s straight after all.
Enter Tom Selleck as an openly gay Entertainment Tonight-type anchor, and it gets even better. I don’t want to say much more (readers will think I only see previews but not so!) because the plot is a delight. The witty one-liners are fun and clever, and there are scads of them, not unlike in Jeffrey.
Rudnick has an art for striding the line between having fun with (not making fun of) homosexual stereotypes and homophobic attitudes. Rudnick also has a gift for having a great story arc punctuated by humorous vignettes. What he is not good at is keeping the lead character as the important part of the story or deriving his humor from the very situations he himself creates.
OK. Oz and Rudnick together poke slyly and yet lovingly at the entertainment industry, at the innocently hurtful homophobia of high school students afraid of being gay themselves, at womanly insecurity, old ladies’ need to feel young, supermodels, and Barbra Streisand. For every dead-on joke is a “that would never happen” moment that kind of takes the steam out of the whole movie. BUT this does not detract from it being totally enjoyable!
Bob Newhart is just great as the principal whose principles (sorry) get the better of his judgment. Joan Cusack is like, totally brilliant as the fiancee. I don’t want to tell anything too much, but the scene with her in the bar is the best in the film. I mean, she should get a nomination. I hope someone out there somewhere is reading this and scribbling a note to Arthur Hiller.
Anyway, Tom Selleck is great, if underused, Debbie Reynolds is great – she’s as much of a busy body as she was in Mother but without making you want to kill her. Watch yourself praying that Wilford Brimley says “It’s the right thing to do, right now.”
My other complaint was the deliciously talented Kevin Kline basically sitting back and letting the rest of the movie go on without him at the end. He is perfect as the man looking for his machismo but he is wasted as the man waiting for the end of the movie to happen. But the same thing happened in Jeffrey, kind of, so maybe Rudnick just needs to read the end of his How to Write a Screenplay textbook, because he sure has the beginning and middle parts down.
It’s not perfect, but it’s really great. It’s fair to all sides of the issue even if a little idealistic and unrealistic, but the performances make up for the weaknesses.
“And the winner for best supporting actress is…JOAN CUSACK for IN AND OUT!” [cue theme music, camera 3 pick up Joan next to her brother, who should be picking up a statuette for Grosse Pointe Blank after these messages.]
And if someone does forward this to Arthur Hiller, let me say this: If the Academy doesn’t stop recognizing empty pabulum like the English Patient (two cold, unpleasant if lovely people finding passion we never see) and start realizing how hard working and deserving comedic actors are, well, I’m going to stop going to movies! Or I’ll just start sneaking in. Pay matinee or full price, but buy a lot of snacks if you get in cheap.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 9/23/1997
Time in minutes 90
Director Frank Oz
Studio Paramount Pictures