38. The Birdcage


Movie: The Birdcage

Release Date: March 8, 1996

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski.

Tag Lines: “Come as you are.”

“What could possibly come between a match made in heaven? The parents. Dinner. And a nightclub called…The Birdcage.”

Relevance: I had never seen the film or play ‘La Cage aux Folles’ (still haven’t). I was familiar enough with the story line, but never have had the opportunity to check it out either on screen or stage. When I saw the trailer for ‘The Birdcage,’ starring Robin Williams in 1996, I didn’t even know that it was a remake. All I saw was a comedy starring Robin Williams that looked colorful and very, very funny. With that said, I never made it to the theaters to see the film.

‘The Birdcage’ was released in March of 1996. It received very positive reviews from critics and audiences fell in love with it. The movie debuted at number one in the United States box office and remained there for three consecutive weeks. It eventually went on to gross almost $200 million worldwide. It was one of those films that everyone was talking about, and when they did they were smiling. Although I didn’t see it during its theatrical run, being a huge fan of Robin Williams, there was no doubt I was going to check it out on home video.

I rented the movie when it became available sometime in the late summer or fall of that year. I had just moved from one state to another and started a new job (albeit with the same company) that previous summer. Since I worked in retail, my days off were usually Sunday and Tuesday or Tuesday and Thursday. At that time, Tuesdays were “New Release” day and I had a habit of going to my local rental store every week on that day to check out what new movies I could rent for the day. When I saw ‘The Birdcage,’ it was a clear choice.

My first reaction to the movie was not the same reaction that I grew into over the years. The person I watched the movie was to blame. They absolutely hated the movie and never smiled or laughed and seemed to complain about it the entire way through. That dampened my mood quite a bit and I could not really enjoy the movie overall. I was disappointed and returned the rental without watching it a second time. Something I most certainly should have done.

It wasn’t until a few years later, when I re-watched the movie with friends, did I realize what I missed that first go round. ‘The Birdcage’ is pure comic genius. Sometimes it really does matter what audience you see a movie with. Lesson learned. The film was outlandish, ridiculous and absolutely hysterical but one with heart, charm and an important theme of love and acceptance. After watching the movie the second time through, it became a constant for me. I bought it on VHS when it became available and enjoyed it over and over again.

‘The Birdcage’ has remained one of my favorite comedies of all time. I now own the DVD and watch it at least once a year, if not more. It is one that makes me belly laugh every single time. I had the opportunity to see the movie in a large theater a few years ago with one of its stars, Nathan Lane. After watching the movie, the gracious star chatted with the audience for over an hour about the movie and his life. Thanks to a friend, I even have a framed, signed theatrical poster from the event. The film is one of my most quoted and referenced movie of all time. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t at least think about it. “Fuck the shrimp!” And every time I do, I smile.

Today’s Thoughts: “Oh, I know what you’re going to say. “If you kill the mother, the fetus dies, too.” But the fetus is going to be aborted anyway, so why not let it go down with the ship?”

I watched ‘The Birdcage’ today with my husband. To be more accurate, I watched the first fifteen minutes and the last fifteen minutes of the movie with him. He disappeared for an hour and a half in another room in the house. That’s par for the course. Regardless of my husband’s departures and arrivals, the film entertained me yet again like it always does.

‘The Birdcage’ is brilliantly directed by Mike Nichols and is one of those comedies, thanks to its source material, that gives out so much love as much as laughs. But it is the laughs I remember the most. There are just too many now iconic scenes to pick a favorite. And that cast! What a brilliant ensemble of comedic performances. Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria and Christine Baranski are all brilliant. I have to say though that Mr. Azaria as Agador Spartacus is the one that makes me laugh the hardest. Every. Time. It really is a fantastic character and performance.

‘The Birdcage’ for me is a classic and a movie that always makes me laugh a lot every time I watch it. The movie is one of those rare films that can be mentioned in a group of friends (or even strangers) and conjure up at least a few smiles. Watching the film today also made me a little sad. I miss Robin Williams. However, I am thankful that he is forever immortalized on film, especially in this outrageous comedy.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Bo Welch, Cheryl Carasik (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Nathan Lane (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Hank Azaria (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Nathan Lane (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Elaine May (nomination).

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


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