Movie In & Out

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Sep 27, 2014
AFL Club
1997 comedy film directed by Yoda.

I remember ads for this on TV as a kid but hadn't watched it until this weekend all these years later.

Kevin Kline plays an English teacher in Greenleaf, Indiana who, along with his fiance, family and the whole town, is shocked to be "outed" as gay by former student Matt Dillon on live TV during his Oscar's acceptance speech.

For the first half I was thinking this has dated badly because the jokes are all "ha gay!". Understandable being the mid 90s when it was made.

I figured it was building to a certain ending but it subverted my expectations by doing that in the middle of the film and having it play out differently than I'd thought.

Kind of doesn't become as interesting from there on as I'd hoped.

It's got a very "Hollywood" score which got annoying.

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Norm Smith Medallist
Apr 28, 2008
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Arsenal Kilmarnock
Nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
It only had 1 nomination: Best Supporting Actress for Joan Cusack.

I don't mind it. It is a standard Kevin Kline comedy, which is usually amiably swell.

For what it's worth, I wrote this review 3 years ago:

By its nature a very dated affair, nevertheless still a relevant light comedy (after all, Brokeback lost, gay teachers still face these issues and gay marriage is still a hotly debated topic), plus Kline and Selleck provide us lucky audiences with one of the hottest kisses in 90s cinema.

In & Out certainly plays up to stereotypes (in a desexualised fashion) like there is no tomorrow, enough to draw in flocking Birdcage-type crowds, the obligatory references to the likes of Beaches, I Will Survive, Streisand, the Village People, as well as physical prissyness, and a queer eye for fashion and taste, all get rolled out. But underneath all the obvious stereotypical humour is an endlessly humourous vein of good-hearted cheekiness against the hypocrisy of common middle america folk once an assumed taboo subject jumps out of the safe arty realm of the showbiz screen or the English class text and enters one's sphere, influencing actions through fear of ostracising community pressure.

Inspired by Hank's Oscar winning speech for Philadelphia, Frank Oz pitches In & Out perfectly as harmless fun which tackles lazy, unexamined tolerance of far-off ideas when they threaten to confuse reality. The commentary on showbiz and all the traditional hallmarks of community is all persuasively progressive without getting academic or confronting. Whilst the plot rests awkwardly and thinly on an Oscar acceptance speech, and never really pursues its subject with any conviction, it should be remembered that this isn't for the modern "SJW"-type pedantry. Rather, it's for the Trumpton Americans to feel more comfortable with an issue in the flesh. It tells isolated gay people that it is okay and fun to be gay (and Kevin Kline is such a babe here), and the surrounding communities that they are ultimately able to come around to and feel the gay love as well. Social commentary sympathises with all, from the insecure students of the teacher to the patient wife-to-be to the soul-destroying plight of the entertainment reporter to the little old lady who really really likes Sally Field and isn't partial to The Bridges of Madison County.

That said, despite the good first two acts, In & Out is the type of film that lives and dies upon the message left in the third act, the type of film prone to cop-out reversions, particularly given the confused protagonist and simple-minded, cartoony depiction of sexual awakening, and more cynically the potential villainy and betrayal of Selleck, and therefore it must stick the landing. It neither succeeds nor fails, just thuds back into mediocrity. The auditorium ending is incredibly clunky, although I guess the whole "I'm Spartacus...and gay!" display thematically works with the positive vibe of the gay narrative. As a film of its era you just have to cop the ending for what it is, a grope for a "so what" post-coming out world that still gets to revel in all the rituals of "I'm gay" bomb angst. The biggest cop-out in the film is that a kiss with Selleck is criminally clean-shaven. And that Joan Cusack gets nominated for an Oscar over the likes of Sigourney Weaver (Ice Storm) even with the litany of dodgy Supporting Actress category decisions in the 90s and the Oscar lampooning in the film (In & Out ironically tackles the gay narrative not all that dissimilarly to To Protect and Serve, save the differing community embrace of the ending).

In & Out has an infectiously earnest spirit which might not stand up all too well to more realistic understandings of homosexuality, but nevertheless charmed me. Even the obligatory stereotypes felt more exuberant than trite. In & Out is not laughing at, it seeks to laugh with both subject and audience, and pushes mainstream attitudes in the right direction without aggravating the delicate sensitivities of common folk. Hell, my dad likes some Streisand films and booming divas, and is also instinctually conservative and enjoys shooting, fishing and all that jazz, and the film tackles that latent macho hypocrisy with gleeful holiday film innocence, reminding us that even those who aren't gay are needlessly boxed in and victimised by heteronormativity. A simple feelgood questioning comedy for the mainstream. After all, one person's idea of "conservatism" may be another's idea of "progressivism", and in this time of surprising, divisive election results, it helps to remember that attitudes aren't so clear cut. In & Out understands the latent fears but also the good intentions of community spirit, and essentially the need to take people with you rather than calling the shots. After all, even Steven Seagal might only be a Snowball in Hell away from an Oscar, as close to the envelope as Glenn Close, tomorrow is full of surprise results which require an open mind and willingness to work with.

It would be easy to be snooty towards In & Out, but when I honestly remember back to my own 90s childhood, this film would have done the trick.

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