The Birdcage Blu-ray Review
It’s generally good news when a couple gets engaged, but it’s a hit-and-miss situation when it comes time to meet the future in-laws. That’s what Val (Dan Futterman, who would later earn an Oscar nomination for his CAPOTE screenplay) and Barbara (Calista Flockhart, one year away from landing the title role on ALLY MCBEAL) run into after they decide to spend the rest of their lives together.
Barbara’s father is Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman), a Republican senator seeking reelection. Val’s is Armand (Robin Williams, JACK), the owner of a Miami nightclub called The Birdcage, where acts with names like Starina take the stage if they’re not too busy being a drama queen. With a major controversy on the horizon, Kevin, along with his wife (Dianne Wiest, THE ASSOCIATE), decides it would be best to squash any negative coverage by meeting his daughter’s future father-in-law, Armand. Knowing the stakes, Armand agrees to play the role of straight man, which proves to be more difficult than they all thought, since Armand’s lover, Albert (Nathan Lane, who won a Tony Award for his performance in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM just months after THE BIRDCAGE premiere), is about as straight as Lombard Street.
The stage is lined with sequins and flamboyance for the sort of madcap anarchy that is bound to spark from the set-up. This is a game of hiding and identity—but it’s not about hiding the fact that one is homosexual, but rather playing the part to make those you love happy. Some might be tempted to judge Armand for his decision to go along with the plan, but he makes it known he isn’t happy with it and is only doing it out of love of his son. The same goes for Albert, who isn’t disowning his identity but rather limiting his tendencies because he wants Val to be happy.
Such characters as Albert could be easy to make fun of or be written as caricature. But with Elaine May (1978’s HEAVEN CAN WAIT, 1982’s TOOTSIE) serving as screenwriter, the movie treats the likes of Albert and Armand with complete respect, sidestepping hurtful stereotypes and molding the characters (which also include the housekeeper Agador, played by Hank Azaria) as developed humans with purpose and needs (although Agador has far less dimension than Albert and Armand).
THE BIRDCAGE, as you may figure from the basic plot and the cast (who won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast, besting films such as THE ENGLISH PATIENT and MARVIN’S ROOM), is a sharp and consistently funny movie. And even though it runs a tad too long for its own good, the movie entertains for the duration.
THE BIRDCAGE, which is a remake of the 1978 French-Italian comedy LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, may not have the staying power of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966) or THE GRADUATE (1967), but it is a strong, commendable effort from director Mike Nichols, who keeps the movie flowing and gets one of the best performances out of Williams in his career.
THE BIRDCAGE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. THE BIRDCAGE’s Blu-ray debut features a video transfer that is fine but certainly far from stellar. The details and colors are quite nice and much more vivid than seen on the initial DVD, but the overall image has a soft quality to it.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0; French Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio has also been improved, but lacks dimension.