The Birdcage (inspired by Films to be buried with)

3 Mar

I don’t know if “The Birdcage” qualifies as the best movie ever made by Hollywood, or by critics, or by audiences, but in my book it’s perfect. What are the many ways in which it is perfect? Let’s see:

Directed by Mike Nichols

Written by Elaine May

Starring Robin Williams, Dianne Wiest, and a very memorable, heavily accented Hank Azaria.

“The Birdcage” ably straddles the line between slapstick, silly humor (“Madonna! Madonna! But you keep it all inside”), intelligent, turn-for-a-second-and-you’ll-miss-it dialogue (“Mary, it’s porno, not pronto), and adept social commentary. I often think of what a favorite college professor of mine said, and it applies here: Steven Soderbergh could have written a million op-eds decrying the war on drugs. Instead he made Traffic. Which I always interpreted to mean: a well-crafted, two hour movie can say as much as a host of polemics on a timely subject- and can often say it better, and in a more entertaining way. The moral of every Disney movie is ‘Be yourself’. The moral of “The Birdcage” could be summed up in the same way, while also critiquing the mind-numbing hypocrisy of 1990’s political life (the holier than thou family values crew in Washington and their very unsavory private lives). This movie is so quotable, I don’t know where to start (“Lady, not for a million bucks”, “May I take your purse as usual or….for the first time”), but it’s incisive and hilarious at the same time, a real rarity.

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