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File:The birdcage 8802.jpg

The Birdcage is a 1996 comedy film directed by Mike Nichols, and stars Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria and Christine Baranski. The script was written by Elaine May. It is a remake of the 1978 film La Cage aux Folles by Jean Poiret and Francis Veber, starring Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi.

Val Goldman (Dan Futterman) and Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart) are engaged to be married, and have decided to have their families meet. Val's father, Armand Goldman (Robin Williams), owns The Birdcage, a South Beach gay club. His lover is Albert (Nathan Lane), who appears regularly as "Starina," the show's star drag queen. Barbara's father, however, is ultraconservative Republican Ohio Senator Kevin Keeley (Hackman), co-founder of the right-wing "Coalition for Moral Order" and up for re-election this year.

Fearing their reaction if they learn the truth about Val's parents, Barbara tells her parents that Armand is a cultural attaché to Greece, that Albert is both a woman and a housewife, and that they divide their time between Greece and Florida; she also changes the family's last name from Goldman to Coleman to hide their Jewish background.

At this point, Kevin receives a phone call: Senator Jackson, Kevin's colleague and co-founder of the Coalition for Moral Order, has been found dead in the bed of an underage black prostitute; the event receives a large amount of coverage in the media. Louise Keeley (Dianne Wiest) then proposes a visit to meet their new in-laws as diversion to save Kevin's political career: It will give them an excuse to get out of town, and Barbara's marriage into a "traditional, wholesome" all-American family will give the senator excellent PR material.

There's no way this could possibly go wrong...


This movie contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Nathan Lane is openly homosexual.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking/I Take Offense to That Last One: Upon learning the truth about Val's family, Senator Keeley's response? "You can't be. You can't be Jewish!"
  • Book Ends: The Birdcage performing Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."
  • Camp Gay: Every gay who isn't Armand.
  • Character Name Alias: Agador the housekeeper introduces himself as Spartacus. After some confusion Armand settles on "Agador Spartacus".
  • Dawson Casting: Calista Flockhart played an 18-year-old when she was 31.
  • Different for Girls: Partly subverted.
  • Digital Bikini: One television edit put shorts on Hank Azaria's character, in a scene where he is otherwise wearing a thong.
  • Disguised in Drag: The Keeleys escape the paparazzi by dressing in drag and leaving through the front door of The Birdcage.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Agador. They "make [him] fall down."
    • And they do, at least once.
  • Drag Queen: Albert.
    • Plus the whole Keeley family at the end! (Yes, even the wife and daughter!)
  • Mr. Fanservice: Dan Futterman as Val.
  • Fawlty Towers Plot: The movie fits this to a T. All it takes is Barbara lying about her new in-laws to get the ball rolling.
    • And even thought they can't keep up a consistent lie, with contradictions popping up at every possible moment, they manage to keep going on and on.
  • Foreign Remake
  • Flying Under the Gaydar: Albert and Armand try to do this to fool their son's future-in-laws, which of course goes spectacularly awry.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "A woman is worth her weight in hens, and a man's wealth is measured by the size of his cock." Kind of to be expected, since Robin Williams gave the trope its name.
  • Good Ol' Boy: Senator Keeley
  • Happily Married: Albert and Armand (essentially).

 Val: I'm the only guy in my fraternity who doesn't come from a broken home!

  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Due to the nature of the story, the director made Nathan Lane and Robin Williams promise to do one take exactly as scripted before they could go wild in retakes. This is bound to happen.
  • Has Two Daddies
  • Hypocritical Humor: Agador, while dressed in cutoff shorts and a lacy, see-trough, midriff bearing shirt complains that a butler's uniform would make him "look like a fag."
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After Armand learns Val is getting married, he downs an entire glass of white wine, then goes to get even more.
    • And Senator Keeley needs his freaking candy.
    • As the dinner progresses, Armand (and later Val) sneak into the kitchen to start drinking wine directly from the bottle.
  • Jewish Mother: Albert, to his stepson Val.
  • Large Ham: Nathan Lane and Robin Williams compete to see who can eat more scenery.
  • Leno Device: Leno makes a quick joke about Senator Jackson in a monologue on the Keeleys' television.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: There are mountains visible outside Katherine's office window. Her office is in Florida.
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Averted.
  • Out with a Bang: Senator Jackson died while having sex with a prostitute.
  • Placebo Effect: Armand's "Pirin tablets" -- he seems to think they're some kind of powerful anti-anxiety medication; they are in fact Aspirin with the first two letters scraped off.
  • The Remake: Of the French Film La Cage aux Folles.
  • The Reveal: The film's first scene plays up the good-looking young man as Armand's secret lover. He's actually his son.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Albert does this twice.
  • Scream Discretion Shot
  • Straight Gay: Armand somewhat. He can play straight at the very least. Albert, however, is so camp that he can't even do that.
  • Strawman Political: It's both subtly and not-so-subtly implied that conservatives are disgusted not only by gays, but by Jews and black people. Oh, and Guatemalans.
    • For what it's worth, though, all three are at least presented as fundamentally good and even kind people, even when they're saying terribly racist things. Whether someone can be good and super-prejudiced at the same time is, of course, a different debate, but as TV bigots go, they've at least got shades and nuance to them.
      • Also, by the end, the Keeleys have obviously accepted Armand and Albert because Val and Barbara get married with both their families present and happy. So, the Keeleys are able to put aside prejudices and get over it when confronted.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Senator Keeley actually made a pretty good-looking woman!
  • Throw It In: Robin Williams and Nathan Lane had to promise to do one take exactly as scripted before the producers would allow them to go off ad-libbing.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Armand and Albert are gay and Jewish!
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The Birdcage, the club Armand and Albert own.
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