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Volume 91, Issue 20
Wednesday, October 1, 1997
In with the acting, out with the script
"HEY... IS THAT BRAD PITT WITH HIS SHIRT OFF? WOW!!" In the new comedy In & Out, actor Kevin Kline attempts to convince his local town that he really isn't gay. Hmm?
Remember the commercial slogan for Labatt Blue Light saying: "If we wanted water, we'd ask for water"? Well, In and Out is a lot like that commercial, except in this case, water is substituted by a lecture regarding the acceptance of homosexuals.
In and Out throws out stereotype after stereotype and the mixed reactions they inspire. The relentless message, however, never dies making the film more like a series of public awareness messages than the comedy the audience expected to see.
The film stars Kevin Kline as Howard, a small-town English teacher who seems to have the perfect life. His students love him, his fiancée loves him... he can do no wrong. To put the icing on the cake, one of his former students, while accepting his Oscar, thanks Howard and then outs him on national television.
That night and for the next week, Howard's life is turned upside down by his students, his family, his fellow teachers and the national media who all want to know the truth. Is Howard gay?
No one seems to know not even Howard. This search for the truth takes up most of the film and is highlighted by spectacular performances by Debbie Reynolds, as Howard's mother, and Zak Orth as Mike, one of Howard's students. As the film winds down, Howard, aided by a sleazy reporter played by Tom Selleck, realizes the truth about himself.
The basic storyline has so much potential for humour. The only problem with the film is that it patronizes the audience. The people in this town are so sheltered. It is almost like they have never even heard the word "homosexual" and if they have, their ears surely must have bled. It seems that screenwriter Paul Rudnick, who is openly gay himself, thinks the general public is entirely ignorant. He believes the public in general is completely oblivious to the fact that homosexuals are people who live among us, work with us, are friends with us and enjoy the same things that we do.
The film also makes a point of blatantly throwing in every single gay stereotype including Barbara Streisand, Ellen Degeneres, San Francisco, the Village People, the sweet, well-dressed neat man and of course Richard Simmons. He also makes it a point of including every type of homophobic person, including those who are ignorant, those who find it unnatural and those who are unable to come to terms with the existence of homosexuality.
All of these ideas and symbols are very readily recognized, explained and commented on in some way. This lack of subtlety very much takes away from the comedy of the plot and turns it into a lecture.
Having said all that, however, In and Out does have its redeeming qualities through its secondary characters. Matt Dillon, playing the former student who outs Howard, does a great Keanu Reeves "how-the-hell-did-I-ever-get-to-Hollywood-I'm-such-a-pathetic-actor" impression. Bob Newhart, as the school's principal, is also in top form. He never fails to make the audience laugh with his priceless facial expressions.
The problem with this film ultimately lies in the screenplay and its preachy tone which is unexpected and poorly done. In and Out is a typical Hollywood light-hearted comedy with a fresh premise, but it does not have the script to make it a good film. It is worth renting if nothing else is available, but save your cash at the multiplex.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997