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One swell reason for seeing this fresh Americanized remake of La cage aux folles--the 1978 French farce about a middle-aged gay couple--written by Elaine May for her old improv partner, producer-director Mike Nichols, and costarring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as the couple--is its hilarious depiction of Pat Buchanan as played by Gene Hackman, which implies, among other things, that only a drag queen could adequately fulfill Buchanan's dream of ideal womanhood. More specifically, the son (Dan Futterman) of the proprietor (Williams) of a Florida nightclub with a drag show called "The Birdcage" becomes engaged to the daughter (Calista Flockhart) of an ultraconservative senator (Hackman) who wants to visit his future in-laws, leading to frantic preparations for a dinner party at which the proprietor's drag-queen partner winds up playing the boy's mother. (Hackman's wife, incidentally, is played by Dianne Wiest.) This isn't the supreme masterpiece it might have been, but Nichols's direction is very polished and some of the lines and details are awfully funny.

--Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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