Mike Nichols' The Birdcage is a funny, slapstick, but ultimately slight farce, notable as a forerunner in the movement to make gay characters mainstream and profitable at the box office. It succeeded bigtime, winning a broad audience and raking in close to $125 million. It's rare that another actor gets to upstage Robin Williams, but Nathan Lane does so wonderfully, playing an ungracefully aging drag queen who performs at the Miami nightclub owned by Williams, his subdued life partner. It's the role that catapulted Lane into the American popular consciousness, if also typecasting him in the process. His swishy hysterics never get tiresome, but it's even funnier watching him try to learn machismo from Williams, who can "pass" for heterosexual. Williams' treacly scenes connecting with his son are the weakest parts of the movie, which hits a more comfortable stride during its brilliantly staged, elaborate cover-ups aimed at hoodwinking Gene Hackman's right-wing politician. Almost as funny as Lane, in a supporting role, is the scantily clad Hank Azaria, as the couple's flamboyant housekeeper who loves dancing to Gloria Estefan. The Birdcage is also notable for a pre-Ally McBeal appearance by Calista Flockhart, who plays the son's fiancée.
by Derek Armstrong review