109. In & Out

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Movie: In & Out

Release Date: September 19, 1997

Director: Frank Oz

Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Matt Dillon, Debbie Reynolds, Wilfred Brimley, Bob Newhart, Tom Selleck.

Tag Lines: “An out-and-out comedy.”

Relevance: There are some movies that I just love for no reason other than they simply entertain me. Some movies effect me and make a huge impact on me and my life. Some movies are actually written about me. Well, not really, but they sure seem like they are. That is the case with ‘In & Out.’

I did not see ‘In & Out’ when it was released in theaters. The film was well received by critics and had moderate success at the box office but I honestly don’t remember it being in theaters. Maybe that was a subconscious blackout. The first I became aware of it was in January of 1998 when it started to get some award nominations, especially for Joan Cusack’s performance. Most of the clips I had seen from the film at that point were of her screaming, “Is everybody gay? Is this a ‘Twilight Zone?'” Again, maybe it was all a little too close for comfort for me to be dealing with, so I ignored it.

Instead, the first few months of 1998 were focused on Madonna. She released her “Ray of Light” album that March and it literally and figuratively saved my life. I was having an extremely difficult time dealing with my sexuality and I was on a very steep downward spiral. Having her music and videos to focus on were the only light that shone on my very dark existence. I was eventually dragged out of the closet in late June after some very dark, dreary months. It was not a good time in my life. I found myself living alone, going through a divorce and dealing with my new life as a gay man.

I spent most of that summer by myself. I worked, a lot, and really kept to myself, doing things like watching movies, listening to music and reading. As the Fall of that year approached I was getting a little bit more acclimated with my lifestyle until an event happened that terrified me. Matthew Shepard’s horrific beating and eventual death scared me senseless. I was now an openly gay man, although on a scale of one to ten of openness I was closer to a one. A young man, only six years younger than I was at the time, had been murdered because he was gay. To say this event shattered my life is an understatement. All I wanted to do was crawl back in the closet, lock the door and turn off the lights. That is around the time I rented ‘In & Out.’

As I sat alone and watched this cheery, funny film about a man being outed, I couldn’t help but find the parallels with my own life. If you take out the Academy Awards and substitute Madonna for Barbra Streisand, you pretty much get my autobiography. Although, for the record, my life was never as witty as Howard Brackett’s and I did not get to kiss Tom Selleck. Regardless, it was quite eerie. The movie made me laugh a lot, which was not something I was doing a lot of during these months. It was refreshing. The movie also made me cry quite a bit. Its uplifting, accepting ending made me hopeful that one day I would have the support of all of my family, friends and peers.

‘In & Out’ was a movie that I recommended to everyone, including my mom. In fact, shortly after I had watched it, I rented the movie with her. She was a huge fan of the talented cast and was excited about seeing it. She really enjoyed the film and laughed a lot. I could still hear her chortles at Joan Cusack and Debbie Reynolds, one of her all time favorites. Although she never mentioned my life or recent coming out, her comment at the end of the movie made me smile. “The world would be a better place if we just accepted everybody for who they are.” That was all I needed.

‘In & Out’ remained one of my favorite films and I bought it on VHS, as did my mom, as soon as I could, followed by the DVD upon its availability. I have watched the film a countless number of times and am thoroughly entertained by it every single viewing. It makes me smile. It makes me laugh. And it makes me realize that, yes, life after coming out does get better.

Today’s Thoughts: “This is my Peter, uh, my friend Peter. We just met at the, uh, intersexual… homosection…intersection!”

Watching ‘In & Out’ today was like watching an old home movie of myself, but a much funnier one, with a lot more attractive people portraying my friends and family. I am a different homo in 2020 than I was in 1998. I am a lot wiser, I rarely care what anyone thinks about me or my lifestyle and I can laugh a lot more at myself. And I laughed a lot at myself, played by Kevin Kline, today.

The film is very lively and bubbly and makes me smile from the very opening scene right through its energetic closing credits. I still tear up a bit during the graduation scene, but the movie doesn’t harp too much on sentiment, but more on acceptance and humor. Twenty-two years later, I still don’t have that acceptance from every friend, family member or peer like Mr. Brackett, but I do have a healthy, happy life filled with love and laughter. I’ll never complain about that.

The cast is more than superb, especially Kevin Kline and Joan Cusack. They are so funny throughout the entire film, but also give the perfect amount of heart and emotion to their perspective roles. The rest of the ensemble including Matt Dillon, Debbie Reynolds, Wilfred Brimley, Bob Newhart and Tom Selleck are equally effective and beautifully directed by Frank Oz.

‘In & Out’ is a film that I will always hold close to my heart and one that I will watch every time I see it playing on television. I’ll also drag it out of my movie collection every once in awhile as I know it will succeed in making me feel good about my life and more importantly, laugh.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Joan Cusack (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Kevin Kline (nomination), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, Joan Cusack (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress, Joan Cusack (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, Joan Cusack (winner).

Ways to Watch: Hulu, Sling TV, Starz, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, DVD Availability.

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