I wanted to post something in memory of Robin Williams, and I thought for this site The Birdcage would be appropriate. For those who may be under a rock, the synopsis follows:
A gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancee’s right-wing moralistic parents.
I remember seeing this movie about the time that it came out. I know that I view it with different eyes now than I did then. There are so many movies out now with the same premises, but The Birdcage predates most all of them. In 1996 American audiences were not used to seeing openly gay, proud people on the big screen so this film treats them with kid gloves.
Themes in this movie are obvious and straight-forward. Families don’t always look the same, being true to yourself is generally the best option (and gets you in trouble less often), and love wins the day.
From my research it sounds like Robin Williams took the part of Armond instead of Albert partly because he had just been in drag doing the film Mrs. Doubtfire. But he played his part so well, and also made a social statement at the same time. Back then it wasn’t quite so cool to play a gay part in film, and he had no issue with that. He said in an interview that it was a sweet love story about two people who cared about their child as much as anyone else.
Now watching the film I find certain parts annoying and most of it is around the character of Val. He comes across as self-centered, ungrateful, and childish asking his parents to be untrue to themselves for his fiance’s parents (with no thought to what would come afterwards). But it’s the parents that make the story with their willingness to do whatever it takes to keep Val from being hurt. All Armond and Albert’s efforts, while comedic and crazy, are heart warming because they do it for their son.
From everything I’ve read and all the stories I’ve heard about Robin Williams in the past 24 hours, this seems like a perfect representation for him. I’ve heard people say that he was generous with giving his time both to individuals and various causes. He thought of other people’s happiness before himself, and cared about the world around him. He will be missed.
My rating is decade adjusted for how I would have rated the film when it came out.