To begin my review for 1997’s indie comedy In & Out, a brief pop culture history lesson is in order. When Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his role as a gay attorney dying of AIDS in the classic film Philadelphia, he thanked two people in his life who were homosexuals that he felt were influential in helping him prepare for the role and that were, generally, great people who had to hide who they were. One of those people was his high school drama teacher, who had been so deeply closeted his entire life that he didn’t really know he was gay until Tom Hanks had contacted him much, much later in life. This hilarious film that I just watched is a very, very loose retelling of that incident in which Kevin Kline masterfully plays the high school teacher who is outed without even knowing he was in by a former student turned protege (Matt Dillon) who outs him at the Academy Awards.
This film is funny. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. There were moments in the film that had me concerned I was going to wake up my room mates cause I was laughing so loud. From a scene where they are throwing Howard (Kevin Kline) a bachelor party (he’s engaged to be married to a woman (Joan Cusack) when he is outed by Matt Dillon) and instead of bringing him porn, they bring him Barbara STreisand’s Funny Girl and a bar fight erupts over the quality of the film Yentl in a room full of menly men that Howard has introduce the wonder of Babs to, to the scene where Howard listens to a self-help tape to try and increase his masculinity that breaks into this wonderful and joyous dance sequence to the “I am Spartacus” satire of a climax, the movie is full of great little moments that make you laugh.
The acting was just absolutely top-notch as well. Kevin Kline brings such warmth and humanity to a character that could have easily been so one note. He really just inhabits the character fully and it was one of those rare moments when I thought of a character more as the actual character than the actor playing him. He made the character whole from the verbal mannerism to the physical tics to the way he carried himself, Kevin Kline became Howard. Joan Cusack managed to be both entertaining and extremely irritating at exactly the same time which is a confusing feat. Her performance was good (although I don’t know if she deserved the Oscar nod she got for the film) but something about her has always irritated the hell out of me. Wilford Brimley, Tom Selleck, and Bob Newhart round out the stellar supporting cast.
The film wasn’t perfect. The score was downright awful to the point of being terribly intrusive at times. While the majority of the film was bust-a-gut funny, sometimes there was some serious mood whiplash or some jokes just felt more absurd and campy than actually funny. Some parts of the ending were too neatly resolved. However, at the end of the day, this was simply a great comedy. This was one of the first “gay comedies” because before most gay films dealt with dramatic issues. It’s always so refreshing to have no idea going into a film that I’m about to watch something that I’m going to really enjoy and remember, and this was one of those moments. If you can handle the fact that it’s a gay comedy, then I give my full recommendation for this film.
Final Score: B+