The Birdcage

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The Birdcage
Birdcage imp.jpg
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
Francis Veber
Starring Robin Williams
Gene Hackman
Nathan Lane
Dianne Wiest
Music by Stephen Sondheim
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Edited by Arthur Schmidt
Nichols Film Company
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • March 8, 1996 (1996-03-08)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $31 million[1]
Box office $185,260,553

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 a very effeminate and flamboyant man. Living with them is Agador, their flamboyant Guatemalan 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 ultraconservative Republican Senator Kevin Keeley and his wife Louise. Keeley, who is a co-founder for a conservative group called the "Coalition for 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. Armand learns that Barbara has told her parents that he is 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. Reluctantly, Armand agrees to go along with the deception for the sake of his son's happiness. 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. Agador pretends to be a Greek butler named "Spartacus," despite the fact that he cannot cook and does not like to wear shoes. Things quickly fall apart as Armand and Val realize that the outrageous Albert can't convincingly play the act of a straight man, and Albert, feeling insulted, locks himself in his room. The sumptuous meal cooked by Agador Spartacus turns out to be 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 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 the situation is explained. Kevin comes to terms with the hoax after Louise reprimands him for putting his career over family. 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 that 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.


Originally, Williams was going to portray Albert whereas Steve Martin was going to portray Armand.[2]


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.[3] 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.[4]


The film opened on March 8, 1996 and grossed $18,275,828 in its opening weekend, topping the box office.[5] 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.[6]

The film received positive reviews upon its release, and currently holds a 79% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 47 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."[7] The review aggregator Metacritic reported that the film received "generally favorable" reviews, with a score of 72% based on 18 reviews.[8]

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.”[9] Desson Thomson from The Washington Post commented “A spirited remake of the French drag farce, has everything in place, from eyeliner to one-liner.”[9] Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly wrote “Enchantingly witty.”[9]

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."[10] The film was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.[11]

The film was nominated for American Film Institute's 2000 list, "100 Years...100 Laughs".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Evans, Bradford (25 October 2012). "The Lost Roles of Steve Martin". Splitsider. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Kimmel, Bruce. "The Birdcage". Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  4. ^ "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ". Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office: March 8-10, 1996 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  6. ^ The Birdcage at Box Office Mojo
  7. ^ "The Birdcage (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  8. ^ "The Birdcage reviews". Metacritic. 
  9. ^ a b c Alexander Ryll (2014). "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, The Birdcage". Gay Essential. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Calley, John (March 5, 1996). "GLAAD APPLAUDS 'THE BIRDCAGE'". GLAAD. Retrieved January 20, 2007
  11. ^ "What to Watch: Thursday, September 1". GLAAD. August 1, 2011.
  12. ^ "America's Funniest Movies". AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs. American Film Institute. 2002. Retrieved May 10, 2012.

External links[edit]