Friday, April 3, 2015

Movie Review: "In & Out" (1997)

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Movie"In & Out"
Director: Frank Oz
Year: 1997
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) is a high school English Literature teacher in a small town and is about a week away from getting married to his long time fiancĂ©e, Emily (Joan Cusack). The whole town is buzzing about Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon), a former student of Howard's, who has gone on to be an actor and is nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of a gay soldier. When Cameron wins, he thanks Howard during his speech, but also claims that Howard is gay. This throws the whole town into chaos as the media comes flocking to their small community and everyone freaks out because Howard might be gay. 

When this film came out, it most certainly may have been viewed as bold for its attempt to draw attention to the discrimination and stigmas that exist against homosexuals. Even as recently as the late 90's, being gay wasn't as readily accepted as it is today, even though we still have a long, arduous journey left to go with this particular civil rights debate (which shouldn't even be a debate). The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was still in full effect and people who were gay could not get married in any state. This is not to say some of these problems don't still exist today because they absolutely do, even 18 years after this film came out, no pun intended. Unfortunately, this film just hasn't aged all that well. As well intentioned as it is, the movie's main jokes revolve completely around gay stereotypes. Kevin Kline's character Howard is thought to be gay because he dresses neatly, understands fashion, likes Barbara Streisand, enjoys dancing, reads poetry, is an English Lit teacher and uses his hands in an animated manner. You know, that old chestnut. In order for Howard to appear more manly, he must wear plaid and look unkempt, adjust his balls in public, speak in a lower tone of voice and absolutely under no circumstances is he to dance, because, you know, only gay men dance! This is something the movie tries to make very, very clear, and we're not even sure how this could have been the case 18 years ago. While Kline acts the hell out of his role and does so well, he cannot be blamed for the overall material he had to work with. All of the movie's other jokes come from how uncomfortable all the straight people in this one particular small town are with the notion that Howard could actually be gay, which seems to be the opposite sentiment of the social commentary of which it wants to partake! Because, you know, all straight people automatically hate the gays! Instead of allowing Howard to live his life as an out, happy gay man, it seems like everyone around him, including those who give him their unsolicited opinions, want him to marry Emily since they have been together for three years, regardless of whether or not he will be happy with her in a possibly loveless and/or sexless marriage. What about Emily? How would she feel if she got married to a gay man and didn't know it? Would that make her happy? We certainly don't think so. We're sure there are some people out there that are gay and marry a member of the opposite sex because they want to try and feel "normal," but when it comes right down to it, this is a concept which we're beginning to think doesn't even fucking exist at all. Who is to dictate what is right and what is wrong? To us, only happiness and love matter. Though this is all meant as a satirical comedy and was used to bring light to such a hot-button subject of its time, it simply shows how out of touch this small town was then, and most certainly would be seen now. We are absolutely positive there still places in America even today that would react in a similar manner, and if you don't think homophobia is alive in our country, we urge you to go turn on a television (assuming you have one if you live in such an ass-backwards place) or read the news. This unfortunate debate is still going on, and homosexuality is still seen as a negative in many parts of the country, as well as the world.

We may have gotten on a political tangent there for a second, but it very much has to do with the film at hand. The lines between comedy and social commentary are really blurry, and now, even in what might be considered a short time period, most of this movie's subject matter feels so retro and its accusations and assumptions are plain ol' tiresome. It can't have it both ways, and part of a movie's job as a piece of art or history is to make a social statement about a moment in time when something wasn't always seen as right, but one we can look back on and not be angry about watching just a short time later. While Frank Oz's sentiments were in the right place, now, "In & Out" has lost most of its appeal. Despite a very bumpy road towards the finish, the ending of this film does have a lot of redeeming qualities, good intentions and a heartfelt message, though it still ultimately finishes on a regurgitated stereotype. 

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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