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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mike Nichols|
|Produced by||Mike Nichols
Neil A. Machlis
|Screenplay by||Elaine May|
|Based on||La Cage aux Folles
by Jean Poiret
|Music by||Stephen Sondheim|
|Edited by||Arthur Schmidt|
Nichols Film Company
|Distributed by||United Artists|
The Birdcage is a 1996 American comedy film, directed by Mike Nichols and stars Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, and Dianne Wiest. Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria, and Christine Baranski appear in supporting roles. The script was written by Elaine May. It is a remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian film, La Cage aux Folles, by Édouard Molinaro, starring Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi.
Armand Goldman is the openly gay owner of a drag club in South Beach called The Birdcage and his partner Albert is "Starina" the star attraction of the club and is a very effeminate and flamboyant man. Living with them is Agadora Spartacus, their flamboyant housekeeper who dreams of being in Albert's drag show as well.
One day, Armand's son Val comes home to visit and says he met a girl named Barbara, who he intends to marry and wants his father's blessing. However, Armand learns that her parents are the extremely conservative Republican Senator Kevin Keeley and his wife Louise. Keeley, who is a co-founder for a conservative group called the "Coalition of Moral Order" -a society developed on traditional views and moral codes- is embroiled in a scandal, after the founder was found dead after having sex with an underage black prostitute, and by association, his reputation and chances for re-election are tarnished. Hesitantly, Armand agrees to the deception, and learns that Barbara, who is also in on their true identities, has told her parents that he is a straight, married and a cultural attaché to Greece. Meanwhile Barbara convinces her parents to meet the Goldmans, in the hopes that a "traditional" family appearance would help clear Kevin's name. However, in order to do this, Val convinces Armand that they need to reflect a traditional family. They compromise with Albert to play the part of Val's uncle instead of Armand's lover, and Val's birth mother Katherine agrees to the farce, pretending to be married to Armand. Val also convinces him to use the last name "Coleman" in order to hide his Jewish heritage. However, things quickly fall apart as they realize that the outrageous Albert can't convincingly play the act of a straight man and he locks himself in his room. Agador, who was made to be the house's butler; despite the fact that he cannot cook and does not like to wear shoes, makes a meal from a broth made of shrimp and hard boiled eggs.
Katherine gets caught in traffic and does not arrive before the Keeleys do, Albert dons a wig and convinces them that he is Val's middle aged, conservative mother. Fooled by the disguise, the Keeleys begin to interact with "Mrs. Coleman" as Armand, Val and Barbara hide homoerotic Greek depictions on their dinner plates. Albert manages to successfully win over the senator with her right-wing arguments over the collapse of morality in society, while Louise is a bit more suspicious, but still accepting. Two members of the paparazzi, hoping for a scoop remove a note intended for Katherine not to go upstairs, and she walks in, introducing herself as Mrs. Goldman, confusing Kevin and Louise. Realizing that he can't keep up the lies anymore, Val reveals Albert's identity to them and they explain the situation. Louise reprimands Kevin for putting his career over family, leading both to forgive Barbara. As they attempt to leave they realize that the club is surrounded by photographers and they will not be able to leave without being seen. Albert suggests going through the club's dressing room and they dress Kevin in drag while Armand choreographs a dancing line through the exit and Kevin goes unnoticed. Even to the point where his driver; who had earlier betrayed the Keeleys to the press, didn't recognize him.
Later, at an interfaith wedding, Val and Barbara are married as both families attend.
- Robin Williams as Armand Goldman
- Gene Hackman as Senator Kevin Keeley
- Nathan Lane as Albert Goldman
- Dianne Wiest as Louise Keeley
- Dan Futterman as Val Goldman
- Calista Flockhart as Barbara Keeley
- Hank Azaria as Agador Spartacus
- Christine Baranski as Katherine Archer
- Tom McGowan as Harry Radman
- Grant Heslov as National Enquirer photographer
- Kirby Mitchell as Keeley's opportunistic chauffeur
A number of songs written by Stephen Sondheim were used in the film. The song that Albert rehearses during the sequence with the gum-chewing dancer is entitled "Little Dream" and was written specifically for use in the film. Albert's first song as "Starina" is "Can That Boy Foxtrot," cut from Sondheim's Follies. The song that Armand and Katherine sing and dance to in her office, "Love Is in the Air," had been intended as the opening number for the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1962. The song was cut from the show and replaced with Comedy Tonight.
The film opened on March 8, 1996 and grossed $18,275,828 in its opening weekend, topping the box office. It remained at #1 for the next 3 weeks before being derailed by the openings of Primal Fear and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate. By the end of its 14-week run, the film had grossed $124,060,553 domestically and $61,200,000 internationally, coming down to a $185,260,553 worldwide total.
The film received positive reviews upon its release, and currently holds a 77% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 critic reviews, which are summarized by the site thus: "Mike Nichols wrangles agreeably amusing performances from Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in this fun, if not quite essential, remake of the French-Italian comedy La Cage aux Folles." The review aggregator Metacritic reported that the film received "generally favorable" reviews, with a score of 72% based on 18 reviews.
James Berardinelli wrote “The film is so boisterously entertaining that it’s easy for the unsuspecting viewer not to realize that there’s a message here.” Desson Thomson from The Washington Post commented “A spirited remake of the French drag farce, has everything in place, from eyeliner to one-liner.” Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly wrote “Enchantingly witty.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) praised the film for "going beyond the stereotypes to see the character's depth and humanity. The film celebrates differences and points out the outrageousness of hiding those differences." The film was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.
- La Cage aux Folles, the original 1973 French play
- La Cage aux Folles, the 1983 American stage musical
- Cross-dressing in film and television
- List of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender-related films by storyline
- Kimmel, Bruce. "The Birdcage". Sondheim.com. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
- "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ". Sondheim.com. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
- "Weekend Box Office: March 8-10, 1996 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
- The Birdcage at Box Office Mojo
- "The Birdcage (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
- "The Birdcage reviews". Metacritic.
- Alexander Ryll (2014). "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, The Birdcage". Gay Essential. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
- Calley, John (March 5, 1996). "GLAAD APPLAUDS 'THE BIRDCAGE'". GLAAD. Retrieved January 20, 2007
- "What to Watch: Thursday, September 1". GLAAD. August 1, 2011.
- "America's Funniest Movies". AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs. American Film Institute. 2002. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Birdcage.|
- The Birdcage at the Internet Movie Database
- The Birdcage at AllMovie
- The Birdcage at Box Office Mojo
- The Birdcage at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Birdcage at Metacritic