Fill The Void
Rama Burshtein's acclaimed Israeli family drama, set within an Orthodox Jewish community
While accepting an Oscar, an actor 'outs' his former teacher - a revelation that comes as a surprise to his fiancée. Comedy starring Kevin Kline, Tom Selleck and Joan Cusack
Joe Versus The Volcano, Dragnet, Volunteers, Punchline, The Man With One Red Shoe - just some of the atrocities that can be laid at the door of Thomas Jeffrey Hanks. We can also add In & Out to this lengthy list. While picking up his ill-deserved Best Actor Oscar for Philadelphia, Hanks made a point of thanking some "great gay Americans" including his high school acting teacher Rawley Farnsworth. Only problem was, Farnsworth was so far back in the closet, he was hanging out with Mr Tumnus.
In Frank Oz's film, it's Kevin Kline's teacher Howard Brackett who suffers the humiliation of being 'outed' by a former pupil at a major awards ceremony. That actor Cameron Drake (Dillon) decides to 'name and acclaim' Brackett is that much more problematic given that the teacher is about to marry. As fiancée Emily (Cusack) comes to terms with the news, Howard sets out to prove that he's straight - only to discover that, in his heart of hearts, he's always been playing for the other side. And with the other side represented by handsome TV anchor Peter Malloy (Selleck) - in town to follow the breaking story - Howard's in a right dilly of a pickle.
It sounds like light, gentle stuff, and with the eminently likeable Kline in the lead, In & Out has its moments of charm. But while the attention might have been to champion the gay community, Oz's film takes too many easy pops at the minority group to come over as approving. In the end, this is no better an advert for homosexual rights than Mr Humphries mincing about on 'Are You Being Served?'
From walking around with his hand on his hips to cutting a rug to The Village People, Brackett's a terrible stereotype redeemed only by the likeability of the performer playing him. The cliches also guarantee that when Howard comes to kiss another man, the scene plays as if it's meant to leave the audience feeling icky.
Neither as funny nor as friendly as it thinks it is, watching In & Out is to be reminded that smart minds are needed to make simple comedy. Just imagine Some Like It Hot without Billy Wilder at the helm - it could easily have been a horrible film full of easy jokes and thinly-disguised homophobia. Alas, with the post-Muppet Oz in the director's chair, In & Out is tolerable only for Kline's winning qualities and the ever-excellent Joan Cusack. John's sister is so good, in fact, she was nominated for an Oscar but was beaten out by LA Confidential's Kim Basinger. Still, it's probably for the best. After all, who knows who she might have 'outed' had she won...
If only it was gay in the old sense of the word.
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On Film4: 15 December 2013