Monday, August 11, 2014

The Birdcage (1996)

Watched this one tonight in honor of Robin Williams' untimely passing. The film is just as funny as ever, but it was certainly sad to watch it and realize we will never see any more performances by this incredibly gifted actor and funnyman.

A remake of the French farce "La Cage Aux Folles", THE BIRDCAGE holds up well on the strength of its phenomenal cast headed by Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman and Dianne Weist, ably supported by fine character actors including Christine Baranski, Tom McGowan and especially Hank Azaria. Williams and Lane are a joy to watch, and you can't help but get caught up in the fun they're clearing having with the material. Williams is generally playing straight man to Lane here, but he has a few moments where his brilliant, manic comic energy comes through at full force. He also manages some quietly subdued and genuinely touching moments, too.

Elaine May's screenplay offers many funny if familiar comedy situations, the best of which come directly from its French predecessor, combined with some mild satire of Clinton-era political scandals and the 24 hour news cycle. Mike Nichols' expert direction keeps things moving at a good pace and effectively builds the energy required of a farce comedy. But most of all it is the great performances that sell the premise and make this one a favorite I return to every so often when I need a good laugh.

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