BY ROMEY NORTON NOVEMBER 29, 2023
"Mischievously funny, The Birdcage is a film you can watch on repeat and not get bored."
The Birdcage is a remake of the 1978 French farce La Cage aux Folles and was the first time Mike Nichols and Elaine May, who helped define improvisational comedy in the 1950s, made a film together. What makes this film so brilliant in terms of comedy is its twisted logic of screwball comedy. Throughout the film, everybody acts the craziest when trying to make the most sense.
It’s over the top, with an excellent written and executed script, without being in your face or completely unbelievable. It’s a political farce and still holds well almost thirty years after it was made.
The story surrounds two gay lovers who own a nightclub, and disguise themselves as a heterosexual couple when their son’s new fiance’s parents are extremely conservative and all need to meet as the two young love-birds are now engaged. It’s only for one night, what could possibly go wrong?
The movie boasts a stunningly talented cast, including Robin Williams as Armand Goldman, the owner-operator of a drag revue on South Beach. Nathan Lane, who plays the star of the show and Armand’s lover Albert, and they live above the nightclub with their flamboyant housekeeper Agador (Hank Azaria). The soon-to-be father-in-law is a conservative senator played by Gene Hackman, who leads the Coalition for Moral Order - so it’s time to hide all the phallic symbols in the house. Each actor gives a solid performance and are compelling to watch. They’re so strong in each scene that you’ll find it hard to just watch one person.
The stereotypes are played so well through the slapstick comedy that each scene has a high energy keeping you entertained from beginning to end. The profanities are in the details, such as the cutlery and costumes. The section where the two gay men practise being straight is hilarious - from deepening their voice to walking like John Wayne, it’s a clever way to turn the tables on playing the majority.
My favourite sections are the complete dramatic breakdowns the characters have throughout the film. From Agador crying in the kitchen as he can’t cook, to Albert screaming on stage during rehearsals, which is followed by Armand doing an array of dances, trying to keep himself and everyone cool and calm around him.
Amongst all the hilarity, there are also some poignant moments in the film - when the audience is reminded that the underlying themes in this story are love, acceptance, and support. You can be giggling one second and then tearing up the next.
The final scenes are some of my favourite endings to a comedy film of all time - and each time I’m up singing, dancing, and revelling in what is a happy-fulfilling end. In order to successfully sneak the senator and his family out of the club, as now the press have got a whiff they might be there, they all get dressed up in drag and dance their way to their cars. It’s colourful, creative genius… followed by a shot of the wedding with one side in grey suits and the other in garish garlands.