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In & Out

Starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck
Screenplay by Paul Rudnick
Directed by Frank Oz
Website www.inandout.com

IN SHORT: A cute comedy.

Let's clear up a couple of facts right off the bat. When Tom Hanks received his first Academy Award (for Philadelphia) he did not out his high school drama teacher. The man was long retired and long out of the closet. The announcement, though, triggered Hollywood and the result is a pleasing, almost wholesome comedy about a gay coming out in the U.S. heartland.

I'd love to take credit for putting the words "wholesome" and "gay" in the same sentence, but that goes to my friend Clare who had a lovely time at the sneak of In &Out. Cranky was tremendously amused but, being New York born and bred, Cranky doesn't have to be convinced that gay folk aren't all that different from straight. In & Out tries, almost too hard, to push that point which, apparently in lots of places in this country, needs to be pushed (again according to Clare whose ex lived in the Deep South). Wisely, the movie is not a one trick pony.

Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) is a schoolteacher of romantic poetry and Shakespeare and all that obviously poof stuff in Greenleaf, Indiana. Excitement at the school runs high. One of the graduates, a Brad Pitt lookalike actor (played by Matt Dillon) has been nominated for an Academy Award. Mr. Brackett, himself, is preparing to wed fellow schoolteacher Emily Montgomery (Joan Cusack). Oscar night, while he's snuggled down with his honey, the alumni wins the statue and outs Brackett.

Problem is, it's a surprise to Mr. B. And his family. And his students. And his co-workers. Sure, he wears a bowtie and rides a bicycle and teaches poetry but that doesn't mean that he's gay. . . Does it?

The press swarm on Greenleaf. The students and townspeople look twice, and every movement and affectation the guy has is analyzed up the wazoo. Nothing is sacred in this tale which, for balance, includes an openly gay TV correspondent Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck).

Paul Rudnick's script takes deadshot aim at technologically stupid and generally vapid supermodels (in the persona of actress Shalom Harlow, whom Cranky's mom would be very happy to invite to dinner...); self-perception problems solved with the help of Richard Simmons; intellectually lightweight but good looking Hollywood talent, and the Academy's pat-itself-on-the-back self-serving attitude for doing the politically correct thing by giving Awards to terrible movies.

That "thing" is a movie within the movie called To Serve and Protect, in which two Army buddies in the midst of battle reveal deeply suppressed feelings for each other and are then courtmartialed for watching Barbara Streisand movies, or something. The "clip" shown at the staged Academy Awards indicates that the flick was even worse than real life Philadelphia. Rudin put in enough stuff that you don't have to be gay or know a lot about gay "secret signals" and stereotypes to get most of the jokes.

Both straight and gay affectations are skewered; the high point coming when Kline's character pops a self-help tape and tries to make himself more masculine. This sequence alone is the only one which comes close to the guffaws found in previous Rudnick scripts (including both Addams Family movies and a quickly overlooked stageplay turned flick called Jeffrey.)

Topping off the pleasure of this bit o' celluloid is the terrific performance of Kevin Kline, reacting with shock and fascination, as long suppressed pointers become obvious to him -- we all know that guys who like Streisand movies are gay, right? As well, only two such no-questions-about-it heterosexual actors such as Kline and Selleck could pull off the smooch that kicks this film into overdrive. Rudnick hits all the stereotype buttons. The more you know, the funnier it gets. It is only when the film becomes preachy about the gay lifestyle not being transmittable (like a disease) that the fun drains out a bit.

But not much. Debbie Reynolds and Wilford Brimley are perfectly cast as Kline's parents. Cusack takes her by now standard neurotic woman to a new high and a mighty good time was had by all. The first sneak Cranky sat through was overloaded with gay couples, so I did another one during the weekend. This show was evenly filled with dating couples, gay and straight, and it worked just fine.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for In & Out, he would have paid . . .

$6.00

FYI. Clare put it at $7, I put it at $5, so I'm splitting the diff. In &Out is a gentle, genial, amiable, gay (as in Happy) comedy. My gut reaction puts my recommendation at a high pay per view level.

In &Out is just the kind of film that enhances family values just the way Republican Conservative Christians want. No premarital sex. Wholesome and trouble free non-dysfunctional households. A successful man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps to get the Golden Statue; yep, all American values all over the place. It may not be Rudnick's best kick in the behind script, but it is thoroughly enjoyable. Recommended.

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