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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 09/18/1997,

In & Out

This coming-out farce culminates in a round of "I'm gay!" proclamations made by . . . a bunch of straight people. The scene is meant as a campy parody of the "I'm Spartacus!" routine from Spartacus, the persecuted rebel in this case being a gay high-school teacher (Kevin Kline) who dares to come out in small-town Indiana. But it clinches In & Out as the screwball Philadelphia, a movie that contorts itself in order to indulge and then whitewash the core audience's perceived homophobia -- in the process turning the ostensible protagonist into an asexual cipher.

At first, Kline's closeted and engaged Mr. Brackett goes nuts when a former student-turned-movie-star (Matt Dillon) outs him at the Academy Awards (a situation adapted from Tom Hanks's Oscar-acceptance speech for Philadelphia). And who wouldn't? The guys at his bachelor party give him a laserdisc of Funny Girl; one of his students asks, "Do you just wanna stick a grenade in your mouth?"; and his priest suggests he screw his fiancée (Joan Cusack) -- yes, before the wedding -- in order to find out whether he's, you know, a red-blooded American male.

But once an old disco tune has helped him out, the film swiftly displaces all comedic humiliation onto Cusack's pathetic bride-at-the-altar, then lathers on the violin music as the teacher's Corn Belt dad (Wilford Brimley) summons the courage to accept his gay son. In light of director Frank Oz's claim to the Advocate that "this is a movie about feeling good about who you are," it seems especially weird that In & Out's climactic wedding is as straight as they come. And even though everyone's "gay," no one mentions what a drag it is that Mr. Brackett can't get legally hitched. At the Cheri, the Fresh Pond, and the Circle and in the suburbs.

-- Rob Nelson