The Birdcage is one of my favourite types of film - easy viewing, a flamboyant comedy about drag queens that actually has a real message to it when you look closer... I love it.
The Birdcage which was released in 1996, is a film adaptation of the play La Cage aux Folles and stars Robin Williams in the lead of Armand Goldman. He plays a gay drag club owner who's life is turned upside down when his son, Val (Dan Futterman), comes home one day and states that he plans on getting married. Cue Armand trying to pretend that his life is "normal" as his conservative rightwing future in-laws come to visit. Plus, these aren't just any old in-laws, one of them is Senator Kevin Kelley (Gene Hackman) who happens to be the co-founder of the "Coalition for Moral Order" and is caught in the middle of a terrible scandal and thinks the wedding of his daughter will once again cement his standing as a senator who stands for good traditional American values.
The comedy in The Birdcage is built around misunderstandings and culture clashes, which are old hat in comedic terms but they're put to full use here. It's strength definitely comes in it's last 30 minutes, watching the catastrophic visit unfold is highly entertaining; from Hank Azaria's infamous "I-am-Spartacus-can't-walk-properly-in-shoes" butlering to Nathan Lane's scene stealing performance, the audience are just waiting for the inevitable to happen and as result, the film just ramps up the
flamboyance to allow the conflict to happen.
Williams is supported by the likes of Nathan Lane and Hank Azaria who relish their roles and attack them with such over-the-top style that their characters almost seem caricaturistic. However, if they didn't draw upon stereotype, due to a more restrained performance from Williams, this film would have fallen flat. Robin's performance bounces off of the flamboyance around him and vicea-versa, they say a leading actor is only as good as his supporting cast and they do not disappoint here in the slightest. Nathan Lane in particular steals every scene he is in and his onscreen rapport with Robin Williams is filled with weird sense of chemistry that shouldn't work but does.
If you haven't seen The Birdcage, I suggest that you do - the comedic performances from everyone involved mean that there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments to be had. Whilst it is easy enough to allow for some relatively laid-back viewing, it does have enough brains and social/political commentary to also engage. Whilst not one of his more well known roles, it is still a great Robin Williams performance nonetheless.