So I doubt I'll find any that you don't know.
One of my favorite films of the 90s is the comedy "The Birdcage."
The 1996 film's cast includes Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Calista Flockhart, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Dan Futterman and Christine Baranski. I'd say everyone does a great job except Christine Baranski.
She's really not much of an actress. Appearing opposite Cybill Shepherd in the TV show "Cybill," it didn't matter that Baranski always seemed to be acting into her chest and ignoring co-actors and the audience. Cybill had enough charm to carry the scenes and make Baranski's Maryanne seem likeable. Without Shepherd, Baranski's just cold and never comes across to the audience or seems like a human being.
In the film, her role is brief but important. She and Robin Williams shared a one-nighter. Robin's gay. She ends up pregnant. She has their child and leaves it with Robin who raises it with his boyfriend Nathan. Years later, when the son has decided to get married, she's invited back in but she doesn't seem to fit. Not just with Robin and Nathan and Dan Futterman (the son) but with others present who are not family.
She just can't act with others and can only do that one performance over and over. With Shepherd, it seemed funny. But a few short years later, she was doing the same performance on a series of Fraiser episodes as "Dr. Nora." That drove home that she might be good in an actor's workshp but she can never connect with the audience.
Every one else is great.
Dan Futterman's first scene? I think he hits a few false notes but assume it was intentional and part of the plan to make sure they didn't run off people nervous about a gay theme.
Mike Nichols directed the film so you know it's going to hit the right notes.
But better than that, the screenplay is by Elaine May so you've got an excellent comedy.
Not only do you get the main storyline, you get a commentary on the media, running media commentary, throughout the film. I don't think a lot of people register that.
Nathan Lane really shines in this film. I don't think he's had as good a role before or after and Hank Azaria lights up the screen every time. You get exited because you know he's going to do something funny so all the camera has to do is find him for you to get excited.
Dianne Weist gets to add another layer to her character when they arrive at Robin Williams and Nathan Lane's home. Prior to that, her Louise seemed sweet but daft. Instead, you discover that Louise is a lot more on the ball than she seems and probably the real reason her husband has made it into the Senate and remains in the Senate.
That husband is Gene Hackman and this is one of his two great comedy performances, the other being in "Heartbreakers." Here there's no reason to give the senator a second look, he's disgusting, he's irritating . . . until he meets "Mother Coleman" (Nathan Lane in a wig) and finds himself enchanted. Hackman is amazing.
The whole film is.
It's so great you wish the rumors of a sequel had been true.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"