Wednesday, July 28, 2021

In & Out (not the hamburger chain)

So instead of the Olympics Opening Ceremony I re-watched IN & OUT (recorded off of TCM).  This is a comedy from almost 25 years ago written by the great Paul Rudnick and directed wonderfully by Frank Oz. 

It stars Kevin Kline as a high school English teacher in rural Indiana who is days away from marrying Joan Cusack and is outed on national television when a former students wins an Oscar, thanks him, and mentions that he’s gay. 

At this point the movie’s “1997” starts to show as the whole town is horrified.  I’d like to think that today a certain number of students and townies would be a little more enlightened.  Not all certainly.  Indiana is still a red state.  But some. 

Of course by the end of the film everyone accepts him, but it’s a Hollywood studio film so of course the ending is happy and touching and lessons are learned. 

But along the way, much of the film’s message still holds true.  And the comedy still holds up.  Way better than I thought it would.   Paul Rudnick is wickedly funny and whether there are set pieces like Kevin Kline listening to a cassette that is supposed to help you determine whether you’re gay, Joan Cusack’s hilarious and heartbreaking speech after being dumped on her wedding day, and a plethora of very funny lines.  The running joke about Kline’s appreciation for Barbra Streisand provides laugh-of-loud moments throughout. 

The casting is pitch-perfect.  Kline, as always, is wonderful.  Joan Cusack crushes it.  And supporting characters like Bob Newhart, Matt Dillon, Debbie Reynolds, Wilford Brimley, Shalom Harlow (what a great name that is) and even Tom Selleck get every laugh they’re given. 

Oh, for the days when major studios put out smart comedies and they were successful.  They would lead the box-office.  Today, no studio would make this film.  You’d be lucky if Netflix did.  Comedies are all “TV movies” now.  Studios have all but abandoned them.  They’re not going to win awards.  They’re not going to attract eleven-year-old boys.

Thank goodness for TCM and the fact that funny is funny. 

23 comments :

James Van Hise said...

Joan Cusack has a funny line where she bursts out of a bar after coming on to Tom Sellek who reveals that he's gay and she exclaims, "Is this the Twilight Zone? Is everybody gay?" It is definitely a Twilight Zone type of idea but TV 60 years ago wouldn't have touched it. Oddly enough one of Twilight Zone's main writers, Charles Beaumont, wrote a story in the mid 1950s with what today would seem like a trite premise as it was about a world where everyone is gay and being heterosexual was illegal. His then agent was Forrest Ackerman who usually dealt with sci-fi mags but no science fiction magazine would touch it. He sold it to Esquire but when the publisher read it he panicked that if he published that story that people would think that Esquire was one of "those magazines." So he rejected it but paid Beaumont the full agreed upon fee as the story had originally been accepted by Esquire's editor. Ackerman then placed the story with the then new magazine called Playboy and it was often reprinted in Beaumont's subsequent short story collections.

Brian Phillips said...

I feel the same way about Moonstruck, The Sting and All About Eve. Also, the hot streak of Preston Sturges, The Great McGinty, Christmas in July, The Palm Beach Story, The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero.

Brent Alles said...

Incredibly enjoyable film... a bit dated, as you say, but still really funny and the performances are delightful.

"She was too OLD for Yentl!" remains my favorite line from the film. :)

Puck said...

Friday Question: I know that you've written three books and often refer to them in your blog posts. After looking at the Amazon pages for them, I noticed that they're self-published. As someone in the entertainment industry, I have no doubt that you could've gotten a contract with a large publishing company. What are the benefits of self-publishing versus working with a publishing company? After going through that process 3 times, do you think the benefits outweigh the downsides? What challenges do you have as a self-publisher? Honestly, I think it's amazing that folks have the power of publication these days without big business gatekeepers, but I know there are downsides as well.

Daniel said...

I haven't seen this film, but Frank Oz has a free pass for making two of the best comedies of the 1980s: Little Shop of Horrors and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

To your comment, "Oh, for the days when major studios put out smart comedies and they were successful," I contend that the golden age for grown-up, sophisticated comedies (particularly romantic comedies) was the roughly 10-year period from 1986 to 1997. In that list:

Hannah and Her Sisters
Down and Out in Beverly Hills
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Roxanne
Tin Men
Moonstruck
Broadcast News
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Funny Farm
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
A Fish Called Wanda
Bull Durham
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Crimes and Misdemeanors
The Fabulous Baker Boys
Say Anything...
Shirley Valentine
When Harry Met Sally...
Metropolitan
Truly, Madly, Deeply
Husbands and Wives
Sneakers
Six Degrees of Separation
Dazed and Confused
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Love Jones
Mr. Jealousy

And those are just the comedies. These were mainstream, popular films aimed at grown-ups, and most of them were extremely successful at the box office. Now comedies (particularly romantic comedies) are mostly high-concept and moronic, and like you said, most are relegated to TV or streaming. I really wish this period in film history were given more consideration because I think too many people reflexively dismiss the 1980s and early 1990s as a time of big, dumb action movies. Which there were, but there was so much more sophistication than the era is given credit for.

flurb said...

Since Brian chimed in with great recommendations, here's mine: George Stevens' The More the Merrier - crazy wartime D.C.-set romantic comedy with Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and the fantastic (classically trained - there's a portrait of him in Shakespearean costume in the New York Public Library) Charles Coburn. Perfect. Our family quotes it all the time. (1960s remake called Walk Don't Run, with Cary Grant, not bad, but not quite so good.)

tavm said...

I finally watched Woman of the Year just before the Tokyo Olympics and now I can understand why the ending with Kate Hepburn trying to teach herself to cook is considered lesser than the rest of the movie though part of me can also possibly understand why the original ending may have not gone well with the preview audience of the time. It's a good first teaming of her and Spencer Tracy though the highlights seem more to do with what business they do individually than together (I'm now also thinking of Spence at that ladies' meeting where he accidentally drops his matches while also trying to get out of the way of a lady's clothing that he's tangled into). So WOTY is still pretty enjoyable for today's viewing though of its time as one tends to say of classic movies from "the good old days"...

scottmc said...

I am also a big fan of the film. I love the sight gag when Shalom Harlow encounters the rotary telephone in the motel. The movie boasts an amazing list of character actors. That list includes Ernie Sabella, Gregory Jbara (who would later work with Tom Selleck on Blue Bloods) William Duell, Debra Monk, Deborah Rush,Alice Drummond and Lewis J. Stadlen.

Call Me Mike said...

I was watching Midnight Run the other night and couldn't help but think how different that movie would be today. Probably not as funny, with a lot of forced slapstick and screaming. Probably not as serious either. The Dennis Farina character is genuinely threatening, which helps make the comedy bits work because it grounds everything in some kind of reality where these guys could be killed. The laughs and the tension play well together.

Steve Bailey said...

I haven't seen this movie since it first came out, but I remember it being flat-out hilarious, with great performances by all. I also remember me and my wife stopping off afterwards at a nearby pizza joint and encountering a woman who'd just seen the movie. She asked me what I thought of it. I told her and proceeded to get the usual conservative lecture about how homosexuality was immoral. You know, if gays really are living in sin, why don't we let *them* deal with it in the afterlife and stop meddling in their lives?

Ted. said...

Here's the one thing that's always bothered me about "In & Out": I've known guys who were well-groomed, well-dressed, artistic, not at all macho -- and unquestionably straight. I'm sure some people assume they're gay (sort of like Chandler on "Friends"), which is just something they live with. But this movie suggests that a person like that must be secretly gay, even if he doesn't even realize it himself. (In a few cases that may actually be true, but I think it's far less likely at a time when coming out is easier than it used to be.) It doesn't help the Felix Unger types of the world if everyone else thinks they know that person's sexuality better than they do themselves.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Off topic, yet in a way still related.
This is an addendum to yesterday's Olympics blog.

Back in 1984 they still gave "sex tests" to female athletes to make sure that they were actually female. Back then the Soviet Union, Red China, et al, would pump their female athletes with testosterone and other hormones to make them bigger and stronger to give them an advantage over other countries including the U.S. Those of you old enough to remember will attest that some of those eastern bloc women truly looked more like men.
I don't know if they still administer those gender confirmation tests, but in today's society could they even if they wanted to? Will the next Olympics be the first to have transgender athletes competing with binary athletes? And if yes, how will this change the tenor of the games?

I'm not going to get into the issue of is it right or wrong. I'm just putting it out there.

M.B.

Shelley Herman said...

Kevin Kline is my imaginary husband and he is perfection in this film. Tom Selleck was lucky to have kissed him! And Joan Cusack melting like the Wicked Witch of the West in her wedding gown is iconic!

Unknown said...

In spite of the fact that he has three Tony Awards, an Oscar and God knows how many other awards, I still think Kevin Kline is underrated and this movie is one of many illustrations of how great he really is.

Tom Selleck should have gotten more chances to do comedy.

I've seen this movie so many times that I've lost count. It's tied with "Soapdish" (another great Kevin Kline comedy), the original "Bill and Ted" (best history project ever!) and "Major League" for my favorite endings to comedy films.

No, there's nothing wrong with making people laugh. It is a special gift, in fact, and those who do it well should be given our heartfelt thanks (and lots of money and fame!)

I'll close with one of my favorite lines from "In & Out", perfectly delivered by the great Bob Newhart as Principal Tom Halliwell:

Howard's doofus (but good-hearted) brother Walter has just said that he has no problem with Howard being gay.

Halliwell: "But you're his brother. (pause) As you know."

Barry Traylor said...

Thanks Ken for reminding me how much I liked this film when I first saw it 25 years ago.

Don Kemp said...

If Kevin Kline is going to be taken as Shelley Herman's imaginary husband then I'm taking Phoebe Cates as my imaginary wife.

Necco said...

@Ted

As a gay man, I've always found the clich├ęs annoying. The majority of gay men whom I know, do NOT like opera, cooking, designer clothes, Streisand, etc. The reason that you see so many stereotypes in film and TV, is that it best represents the world of the people writing/producing the product.

"Will & Grace" reflects a mere fraction of gay people.

Frankly, gay filmmakers also produce a lot of garbage. Equally full of eye-rolling stock characters.

Obviously, nothing new - the nature of the business (and life). Compartmentalizing often makes for easier access/acceptance.

memocartoonist said...

Good flick, good laughs, and hey lots of gay men (like myself) loved seeing Tom Selleck kiss Kevin Kline. Lots to love about it and I think it was also (at the time) a film that brought coming out to mainstream audiences in a way that was funny, only slightly preachy, and affirming. And Joan Cusack is, as always, brilliant. She had a fun run of films ("I know somebody famous" - Working Girl)

Cami Hamilton said...

This film makes a great double-feature with A Fish Called Wanda to admire a multitude of facets of Kevin Kline. I am never left with an impression that these were merely one-dimensional characters in In and Out - the talented ensemble, script and direction renders them timeless!

Buttermilk Sky said...

tavm, you're not the only one disappointed by the breakfast-cooking scene in WOMAN OF THE YEAR. When George Stevens explained it to her, Hepburn reportedly said acidly, "Oh, good. Slapstick."

I didn't find CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS especially funny, but ZELIG still makes me laugh.

Greg B said...

In and Out is a great movie. I'm also a fan of the Frank Oz directed Bowfinger.

Scott said...


Ted, I post this only so you will know there is at least one other person who feels the same way about "In and Out." I have read various reviews of it and no one seemed to see it but me (until your post). Much of the movie seems to be poking fun at stereotypes. If you like this or that, you must be gay, straight characters suggest, while Kline insists he just likes this or that, it's not about his sexual preference. I'm not morally opposed to Kline's character being gay, but when he decides he is gay, it seems to go against what the movie had been saying. Also, I think Tom Selleck's role would have been more effective if he had played it more in his usual manner while also turning out to be gay. Then it would have said something about prejudice where gays are concerned. I do agree it has some funny lines.

scottmc said...

TCM is devoting today's schedule to the movies of Abbott and Costello. Were you,are you, a fan? (During one of the introductions it was mentioned that the creator of MISTER ED directed several A&C films.) Tuesday's line up on TCM will feature the films of George Segal,including WHERE'S POPPA,KING RAT and personal favorites BYE BYE BRAVERMAN and CALIFORNIA SPLIT.